KL Rahul is a sight to behold when in full flow. However, injuries, Covid-19 breaks and questions over his batting intent and strike-rate have cast a shadow on the Indian opener's game. Post his recovery from sports hernia, he returned to Team India in the ODI series against Zimbabwe in August, followed by the Asia Cup the same month. With Team India changing its batting template in T20Is - adopting a more aggressive approach - he has come under scrutiny for not being able to up the ante. With former skipper Virat Kohli ready as the third opener in the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup in October, the pressure on Rahul has only increased despite skipper Rohit Sharma backing him.
So, when the India vice-captain interacted with the media ahead of the first T20I against Australia in Mohali, most questions were along expected lines. Asked about the strike-rate conundrum, Rahul said, “Obviously, it is something that every player works towards (strike-rate). No one is perfect. Everyone is working towards something.
"Strike-rates are taken on an overall basis," he said. “You never see that a batter has played at a certain strike-rate (throughout). Whether it was important for him to play at a strike-rate of 200 or whether the team could have still won with the batter playing at 100 or 120, these things are not always analysed. So when you look at (overall), it looks slow.
"It is something I am working on. Obviously, the goals have been defined to each player in the last 10-12 months. Everyone has a clear understanding as to what is expected out of him. I am just working towards how can I better myself as an opening batter,” Rahul said.
He said the time spent in the middle in the Asia Cup, especially in the last match, was important for him to get back among runs. “It has been few games since I came back from injury. I needed the time spent in the middle in Asia Cup; it was very important.”
On his fitness issues and the breaks he has had to take due to injuries in past few years, Rahul said, “My body is feeling good. That's one part of my journey in cricket that's not been too kind. But you have to take it as it comes. I have had a few injuries along the way. It made me value playing cricket and representing country a lot more. Having played a couple of series after my injury, I have started to regain confidence in my body again. Coming back from injury, the toughest thing is to control your mind and tell yourself you won't feel any pain when you dive. That only comes when you play a few games.
“When it comes to batting, the more you play, the more you realise that at any stage in the match, you have to be aggressive and be in the mindset to look for boundaries. It's the same with me. While opening, you give yourself 3-4 balls to see how the pitch is behaving and then try to see how to put the bowler under pressure - score in the powerplay, have discussions with your partner, shots you can play and areas you can target.”
On Team India not being able to win an ICC title despite coming close a couple of times in the past few years, Rahul said the team is yet to play to its full potential. "Skill wise our performance was only 80-85 per cent. We are still not very good in terms of batting or excellent in bowling or fielding. There are a few things we need to fix.
"You can only win big events if all these are done well and the team comes together to win championship. What happened in Asia Cup and 2021 World Cup (both early exit), we made (committed) different mistakes in those two events. We are very clear about what went wrong and we are trying to learn from it," he said.