CHENNAI: These days, you don’t come across an Indian cricketer who plays street cricket in between his crammed schedule. But that’s what KL Rahul precisely did on Thursday evening. “I was at home and had nothing to do in the evening, so took out the bat and played with some of my friends,” he said. Despite the recent highs, the opener appears to be a relaxed and humble cricketer. When quizzed if he was mobbed by neighbours, he quickly differed. “No. They didn’t. It was just a normal gully match around my apartment.”
This year is just a little over two months old. But it is possibly the best Rahul has had so far in his career. After the forgettable debut against Australia in Melbourne — of which the right-hander still insists he can’t remember anything— 2015 has been kinder to him.
He landed in Sydney to begin the New Year and his India career with a maiden Test ton and on return, became the first Karnataka player to score a triple-century in first-class cricket. And there have been three scores of fifty-plus as Karnataka are a step away from the defending Ranji crown.
As the state is gearing up to face arch-rivals Tamil Nadu in the final starting on Sunday at the Wankhede Stadium, Rahul is relishing the opportunity to add glitter to the red and gold. “The love you have for the state-side is huge. It brings out a special feel as it was the place where it all began and it is the system that developed me into the cricketer I’m today. We are a champion side and we are enjoying being so. Some of us have been playing together since junior cricket and we share a good friendship even outside the field. We do dine and watch movies together and a domestic season is very long and the time you spend with your teammates is what makes your journey wonderful. We like each other’s success. So to represent Karnataka is a proud feeling,” Rahul said.
Since the start of the last Ranji season, Karnataka are yet to lose a match. The hallmark of the side — coached by J Arun Kumar — has been their never-say-die attitude. Even when their backs have been pushed to the wall, they have regrouped and hit back hard at the opponents. Mumbai were the recent victim of their aggro in the semifinals as they were bowled out for 44. Rahul believes the side is uncompromising. “Everybody says we keep winning and we are in form. But nobody really knows about the kind of hard work we put in the off-season. Domestic season is long and one needs to be prepared physically and mentally. So we know what it takes to win. Come what may, we believe we have it in us to find a way to get out of it. There is a feeling in the dressing room that we don’t want to be second-best,” he said.
In some ways, 2014 was milestone year in Rahul’s career. Having entered the previous domestic season as a rookie, he topped the run-charts in Ranji Trophy and a call-up to the Test side followed. His temperament, raved about in domestic circles, was vindicated in his knock of 110 in Sydney. “I didn’t begin my Ranji career with a bang. I was dropped for a few matches and sat out some due to injury.
So when I got the chance last season, I wanted to make it count.
I just concentrated on keeping things simple. I put a lot of effort and told myself never to be complacent. I know how it feels to sit out so didn’t want to experience it again,” he said.