By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Aug 20 (IANS) While K.L. Rahul’s success as an opening batsman in the first two Tests has been attributed by the team management to 40-50 days of preparation in the nets in England, a mental shift to his younger days may have also helped him bury the burden of past failures.
Rahul, who played Test cricket after almost two years and only because the regular openers were injured and their replacements not arrived, is India’s most successful batsman in the ongoing Test series against England with 244 runs, including a century (129) in the second Test and 84 in the first Test.
“We could not meet personally and do anything because of Covid-19 but we talked on mind performance [ahead of England tour]. We got him back to younger days, how he was in his younger days,” Samuel Jayraj Muthu, who coached Rahul through his teens and developed him into a batsman in the initial phase of his career.
“Playing at this level, it is about mind. We told him that you should bat like a kid, like 16-17 years old when he got three successive hundreds,” Jayraj told IANS from Mangalore.
“He is matured and 29 years. His basics are very strong and technically very strong from younger days. Any small adjustments is easy for him. So we just spoke about things like what was his way, balance, positioning when he was a kid. How he played, how he left the ball.”
Experts have praised the way he has left deliveries outside the off-stump, planting his front foot on the off-stump which makes him leave the ball better. That is being hailed as sound judgement.
Rahul had played his initial cricket for Mangalore Zone in Karnataka state cricket before moving to Bangalore when playing under-19 cricket.
Playing early cricket in Mangalore turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Mangalore had top quality bowlers, who could trouble any zone’s batting line-up. But they lacked batsmen.
Rahul, therefore, got the onerous duty of farming the strike all throughout an innings.
“We always had good bowlers, but never had batsman in Mangalore zone,” recalls Jayraj. “We used to tell Rahul that you have to play from both ends. You have to play five balls from this end, then take a single and play at the other end. He did that way through under-13, under-15 before the team started building up. That is why he has patience and concentration level. That helped. Also he used to keep wickets,” added Jayraj further.
Rahul had impressed the then Indian batting mainstay Rahul Dravid quite early in his career. While he was scoring a big century in an under-13 game over a decade and a half back, Dravid was doing his fitness by the side.
The young Rahul had his first brush with Indian cricket then.