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Always believed that I would play for India: KL Rahul

KL Rahul talks about the experience of playing for India and facing the likes of Dale Steyn.

KL Rahul in action against Australia at the SCG

Karnataka retained the Ranji Trophy title last Thursday with a massive innings and 217-run win over Tamil Nadu at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. After bowling out Tamil Nadu for 134, the Vinay Kumar-led side found themselves in a spot of bother at 45 for 4 at the end of Day one.

At the start of Day two, they lost Abhimanyu Mithun early. That brought KL Rahul, who had retired hurt at the end of the previous day due to a hamstring injury, to the crease to join Karun Nair in the middle, and the duo smashed the Tamil Nadu bowling to all parts, sharing a huge 384-run stand for the sixth wicket.

Rahul was eventually dismissed for 188, but Nair continued to pile on the runs, scoring a monumental 328 that helped them post 762 runs in their first innings and lift India’s premier domestic title for the second season running.

The Ranji win was just the icing on the cake for the 22-year-old right-hander who made his Test debut for India against Australia at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) last year. While his debut wasn't the most memorable experience, he quickly repaid the faith of the team management by scoring a well-compiled 110 in the following Test at Sydney.

Wasn't surprised by the India call-up: Rahul

Talking about that opportunity to play for the country, Rahul said: “Yes, playing for the country is a very good reward for all the hard work I have put in, but I never really thought about it.

Obviously, I dreamt of playing for India; it’s an aspiration for any youngster and it is a very proud feeling when it does happen. But I always believed that the day would come sometime if I worked hard and kept performing. So, when the opportunity came, I was not really that surprised because I had some good performances behind me,” he added in an interview to Wisden.

A lot of people tend to get carried away in the hype and adulation that greets an Indian cricketer, but Rahul maintained that very little has changed for him since making his debut and that he wishes to continue staying grounded.

“It’s not very different. Not a lot has changed. I am still the same person. What matters to me is what I am doing, and what my family and teammates think of me. Maybe people recognise me more than earlier, there is a little extra responsibility to perform for the teams I play, but I am enjoying the responsibility and enjoying my life at the moment,” Rahul said.

Enjoy the challenge of facing bowlers like Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson: Rahul

The opener, who represents the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League (IPL), also said that he enjoys the challenge of facing express bowlers with supreme skill like South African spearhead Dale Steyn, who is his teammate at Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Mitchell Johnson.

“I only played a couple of balls of Mitchell Johnson in (the Melbourne) Test, but yes, I have faced quite a bit of Dale Steyn in the nets. I don’t really think I made much of an adjustment, but you know that the ball is going to come like 25kph quicker than what you are facing in a Ranji Trophy game. You have to be sharp and alert to the situation. They are world-class bowlers who are quick to pick up on your flaws, and keep targeting you wherever you are weak.

“They can swing the ball as well at that pace, and I can tell you, as a batsman, that it is never easy. But, that’s the fun of the game. You have to face different people and you have to deal with different situations. Sometimes, it is very hard and sometimes you feel comfortable in certain situations. That is the beauty of this game,” he said.

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