This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Kannaur Lokesh Rahul – better known as KL Rahul – is touted as the next big thing of Indian cricket. The 22-year-old Karnataka opener made it to the Australia tour sheerly on the basis of consistent domestic performances. His knocks of 185 and 130 for South Zone in the Duleep Trophy final against Central Zone in Delhi were probably just what the doctor ordered in terms of convincing the national selectors that he was indeed ‘ready’ for the big league.
The soft-spoken right-hander spoke in an exclusive interview. Here are the excerpts:
Q. How do you assess your selection in the Indian team for the upcoming 4-Test series in Australia?
It’s a special feeling to be picked in the national side for the upcoming Australian tour. Every cricketer grows up with the ultimate dream of playing for the country and I’m no different. I’m really excited at the prospect of playing in Australia.
Q. You had a superb 2013-14 Ranji Trophy season for Karnataka, scoring 1,033 runs at an average of 68.86 studded with three hundreds and four fifties, followed by twin centuries in the 2014-15 Duleep Trophy final against Central Zone in Delhi. Do you think the two centuries in the Duleep Trophy final really tilted the scales in our favour?
Of course, the Duleep Trophy performance turned things in my favour as the team selection for the Australia tour was nearing. I thought my consistent showing in the 2013-14 Ranji season also helped my cause. Strong domestic performance is the passport to national selection and I’m glad that my performances caught the selectors’ attention.
Q. How challenging is it for the openers to see off the red ball in Australian conditions where the wickets offer plenty of purchase to the quick bowlers?
Getting the team off to a good start is really the key in Australia. Not to lose early wickets in the first hour or so is crucial as it can put a lot of pressure on the middle-order. I’m sure we will strive hard to overcome these challenges and emerge as a strong unit.
Q. You were part of the India ‘A’ team that toured Australia in July this year for two four-day Tests and triangular ODI series. Were they any lessons to be learned from that tour?
Well, I played in both the Tests and got starts in every match, but was not able to build on those starts save for a knock of 52. The wickets we played in Australia were not as fast as it is known to be and was mostly on the slower side. The biggest learning was that I had to make the most of the starts.
Q. Are you making any special preparations to counter the Aussie bowlers?
I’m doing my training keeping in mind the kind of pitches I’m going to play on in Australia. I’m talking to my coaches and using their inputs and hopefully things will work out well for me.
Q. Rahul Dravid has backed you over a period of time, tipping you to be a big thing in Indian cricket. Your thoughts?
He has been backing me since junior cricket days. It feels great to get such encouragement from one of the stalwarts of Indian cricket. Other Indian greats like VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly have supported me a lot and I hope to live up to everyone’s expectations..
Q. You are picked in the side as the third opener – Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan are the two frontline openers. Given this scenario, how optimistic are you of making your Test debut?
As a team member I want my country to do well against Australia and it really does not matter which Test I make my Test debut in. Murali and Shikhar are proven performers and if they can do the job for India, that’s what matters. I will celebrate my Test debut when it happens, but won’t keep thinking about it, rather want my team to win in Australia.
Q. Finally, how do you assess India’s chances against Australia in the four Test series?
Well, it’s not going to be easy; our record in their own backyard is not great, but we are confident of rectifying that this time around.