India’s new batting sensation KL Rahul revealed that it was his success in the 2016 IPL which made him believe in his abilities as a T20 batsman. He scored 397 runs in 14 matches in the last season of IPL at a strike rate of 146.49 for the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Following his brilliant performance in the IPL, Rahul earned a call-up to the Indian ODI and T20 squad and scored a century in his ODI debut against Zimbabwe. He followed it up with a breathtaking century in the T20 series against the Caribbeans at Florida and became the 3rd Indian to score centuries in all three formats after Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma.
"This year's IPL was the key moment for me to start believing in myself and my shorter format abilities," Rahul told ESPNcricinfo. "Once people saw it, they started believing it too. I think it is very important when your own team-mates start believing that you have the game. I always knew I could play the shorter format but it was about putting a few performances there. A couple of good innings and I knew I will start believing a lot more in myself, so yes it worked out well for me this summer."
Besides his spectacular form in the limited overs format, Rahul has also produced impressive performances in Tests. Coming in as a replacement for injured Murali Vijay in the 2nd Test of the recently concluded Test series against West Indies, Rahul went on to score a magnificent 158 in the 1st innings which paved the way for an Indian win.
Expected to be India’s first choice opener in the Test series against New Zealand Rahul said that the reason behind his success has been in “keeping things simple” irrespective of the format. He also attributed his Test and RCB captain Virat Kohli for being an inspirational figure both on and off the field.
"We feel lucky we don't have to look too far, the guy who inspires you is sitting right next to you in the dressing room," he said.
"The level of commitment that he (Kohli) has shown, the discipline and work ethics, the way he has been so disciplined with his fitness, nutrition, and diet, that is something that has inspired all of us. If you come into the dressing room now you see how all the boys are so disciplined. He's helped me in shaping my career. When I came into Test cricket, I was good but not as good as I am now. Virat has helped me with my preparation, mindset and he has given me a lot of confidence.
"It is really strange but there is no mental switch that I make. If you saw the innings in St. Lucia, I got a 50 in 56 balls (65) or something opening the innings when the ball was doing a little bit. I try to keep things very simple. I go into the field, try to assess the pitch and the situation, see what are the best shots I can play and what is the best approach to have on that day."
While playing for the RCB in IPL, Rahul was also asked to keep wickets to play an extra specialist batsman or bowler. Having practiced the skills in junior level cricket Rahul said he will be ready to take up the keeping gloves if his team needs him in that role.
"I know this (wicket-keeping) challenge can be thrown at me, that's why I have started working a lot harder on my fitness because keeping will demand different sort of fitness," he said. "If I have to keep and bat, it will take a lot out of my body. So I have started to train harder and focus on eating right and whatever helps recover my body, I am trying to take care of that. It helps to have great support staff to look after you, they guide as well. I am sure the gloves will come on at some point. I will be ready and I will enjoy that too."