KL Rahul made his mark in international cricket with a century at the SCG in January 2015, in just his second Test. The call-up had come in the middle of an outstanding Ranji Trophy season, which he finished with 838 runs at an average of 93.11. In the months leading up to his debut, his technique was lauded by coaches with regularity. Even Rahul Dravid praised him for being technically correct. He was seen as a promising Test prospect by everyone. But Rahul thinks that was not doing him justice. He always saw himself as good enough to succeed across formats, he said following his run-chart topping performance in the ODIs against Zimbabwe.
"Coaches or your players in the dressing room can tell you you're not good enough for certain formats, but I never thought they were right," Rahul told ANI. "I knew I was blessed with certain skills, so I stuck to that, I worked really hard on my game, and made sure my strengths became so strong that every time the ball was there, it went for a boundary."
Though these are early days in Rahul's career, his game has come a long way since his first appearance in international cricket, and it would appear as if he has been driven, in part, by a firm resolve to prove his doubters wrong: "My advice would be not to listen to people. I mean, obviously, you have to listen to your coaches and your elders, but you don't have to do what they say all the time. You know best about your game - go out there, be yourself and express yourself. If someone says you can't do something, prove them wrong."
After becoming the first Indian to hit a century on ODI debut, he said he had worked hard to tune himself up for the shorter formats. "I worked on my weaknesses, made sure I got a lot fitter, because in one-dayers and T20s, you need to do a lot of running. Rotating the strike becomes very important, so you need to be quick and you need to be fit for that. Obviously, if you're a good fielder, it adds an edge to you. You can save 10-15 runs on the field; definitely, that gives you an edge over another player. The captain always loves having good fielders in the team."
Having spent considerable time in the slips in the Zimbabwe series, Rahul, also a wicketkeeper, has had occasion to observe MS Dhoni from close quarters. He used the time to ask questions on captaincy and keeping, he said. "When he makes a few changes in the field and I don't understand why he has done that, I go up to him and ask him why he made that change. He'd explain why, what was the thought process of moving the fielder somewhere or giving someone the ball over somebody else.
"Also with keeping stuff, I just asked a few things today, because standing behind the stumps on wickets like this, the ball wobbles after it beats the batsman and that is really difficult for the wicketkeeper to collect. So I asked him if he does something differently.
"He stands in different positions for different bowlers, and we have three extremely different bowlers. Dhawal [Kulkarni] is wicket to wicket and [has a] very nice action, Barinder [Sran] is left-arm seamer, so you stand somewhere else and Jasprit [Bumrah] has a very awkward action and it can be very difficult for the keeper sometimes. So just few things like that ... asking him where he stands, if he's thinking about different things or he just sticks to basics. Those are a few things I tried to ask him and tried to learn from him in these three games."
Rahul's dominant displays at the top of the order played an important part in India's convincing wins in Zimbabwe, but it was the bowlers who set up the victories by dismissing the opposition for small totals in all three games. "I think a lot of credit goes to the bowlers and the way they've come out there and executed their plans. We spoke about pitching the ball up because there was some movement in the wicket, and the wicket was assisting the bowlers. But to come out there and execute the plans in all three games was great to see. I thoroughly enjoyed fielding and catching and watching the bowlers bowl. Credit goes to the boys and the way we've all worked together."