One of the players who has been instrumental in RCB’s success has been KL Rahul. The wicketkeeper-batsman, who has scored four half-centuries in the tournament so far, made a timely 38 from 23 balls in the last league game against the Delhi Daredevils and helped RCB seal a spot in the final four. Joining his captain in the middle at 17 for two, the Karnataka batsman set the pace for the 138-run chase as Kohli anchored the innings.
Speaking to iplt20.com about RCB’s campaign so far and his inspiring captain, Rahul said that ‘never give up’ is what he has gained from the team’s ongoing campaign as they came from behind to claim the No. 2 position in the points table.
Has qualifying for the playoffs sunk in yet?
Not yet! (Smiles) I think it will take a couple of hours to sink in, but we are really happy to end up in the top two. To pull ourselves out from a lot of losses to start off the tournament, and then to regroup and come back so strong and end up at No. 2 is very satisfying feeling for us as a team. And this is what we spoke about at the halfway stage of the IPL - to go out there and play aggressive cricket and (get the) five-six wins (that we needed). We know we have a good team and we are an all-round team – good bowlers, good batsmen and players who can field well and do the job for the team. So it was just about getting some momentum and getting some confidence as a team and we did that and we are very happy to finish in the top two.
How had the team prepared for the Daredevils ahead of the must-win encounter?
Quite honestly, we did not look at what the opposition were doing. There was a not a single thought about what the Delhi Daredevils have been doing so far in the tournament. We just focussed on ourselves and what we have been doing well in the last five-six games (because of which) we got wins coming into this game. We were very confident that if the bowlers got us off to a good start and if we are able to restrict them to 160, we could deliver. With the way Virat and AB (de Villiers) are batting no target is big for us. But we won the toss and that worked in our favour, and the wicket was a little sticky. The bowlers got us off to a good start with a couple of wickets and then the middle overs the bowlers did a tremendous job again, put pressure on the batsmen, and the batsmen did a few mistakes. To go out there and chase down the target with so much ease sums up the way RCB has been playing in the second half of the IPL.
Outscoring Virat in this match, especially given the form that he has been in, how did that come about for you?
No, look honestly I don’t think I outscored him. He knew that he has to be there till the end so he was playing second fiddle. He told me to come out there and do what I have been doing so far - that is to come and play cricket shots and when the ball is there to be hit, I hit it. I don’t think that I outscored him. Maybe it was just a one-off (occurrence); he knew he had a bigger target (which was) to play through (to the end) and see the team through. So that’s why maybe I got runs faster than him.
The way Kohli has been batting, playing risk free cricket, how much of an inspiration has he been to know that a batsman can score big without taking unnecessary risks?
Obviously the way he is batting or the way he has been doing in international cricket and in the IPL is inspiring for anybody watching. He makes batting look so easy. At the moment you can say that he has been in good form, but since he started in international cricket he has been in good form and I just can’t remember when he has been out of form. So just to have somebody like him in the dressing room, to chat with him and see how he works around his cricket, and (to observe how he) gets better and better everyday, that is absolutely a privilege to be in the RCB dressing room or to share the dressing room with him in the Indian team. Whatever little I can learn from Virat I am trying to do it every day.
What is your role in a line-up filled with some prolific run scorers, big-hitting batsmen?
My role is very simple, I try to go and play cricketing shots. I can play all round the wicket and can get two three balls under me and then I start seeing the ball well and then I strike the ball. Like I have always said, I look to play cricketing shots and that’s always been my strength. So I stick to playing that. And if I have got the big players playing alongside me, like Virat or AB, we discuss, try and assess the situation, and see what the team demands of us to do. So those are the only plans that I go in with. I don’t really plan before the game to play a certain way. It is T20 cricket and situation and circumstances change every over and every ball; so you have to go out there assess the situation and see what your team needs.
Assessing the wicket and conditions - being a wicketkeeper is that also a role you play?
Yes of course! Especially when we are batting second, I have had 20 overs behind the stumps and I know what the wicket is playing (like). I am always thinking what shots should be played on this wicket (and) what are the shots that I may need to cut down. So obviously standing behind the stumps gives me a good understanding of the wicket, and where and what the bigger boundaries are, and where the boundaries have gone (and) what (areas) the opposition has scored. A couple of batsmen from the opposition do well; so I try to learn from them and see where they have hit their boundaries and sixes.
What is your one take away from the match against the Delhi Daredevils and reaching the playoffs?
To never give up! We were at the bottom of the table not too long ago. To come back and to bounce back from there is very inspiring for me and for the team. So just to go out there and play fearless cricket and be aggressive is the biggest learning. You never know, cricket has a funny way of giving individually and also for the team. That’s what I have taken out of this IPL and out of this game.