New Delhi: In his first high-profile captaincy assignment, KL Rahul is looking to lead from the front and use the nuggets of leadership knowledge he has collected while observing the likes of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
Rahul has been handed the Kings XI Punjab captaincy after two stellar seasons with the bat at the top of the order.
“Of course. They have been the most inspiring cricketers and leaders in the last 10 years at least. Having the opportunity to play under them is great learning,” Rahul said in a select media interaction when asked about the possibility of seeing shades of Kohli and Dhoni in his captaincy.
“Both (Kohli and Dhoni) of them are completely different individuals and lead the team differently. But their passion for the team is the same, they always want to win and push the team together.
“I also want use the same approach with my team and look to lead from the front. It should feel like a team, it should feel like family.”
Speaking from Dubai, Rahul said he has picked up the tricks of the leadership trade not just from his India skippers but also opposition captains.
“We are always constantly watching the game on the field, I always keep my eyes open to learning. You learn a lot watching the likes of Rohit (Mumbai Indians captain and India captain at 2018 Asia Cup).
“Guys like Kane Wiliamson. Hopefully, it (the learnings) is all stored in the back of my head (for me to use in the tournament),” said the stylish opener.
To start with at least, Rahul will be opening the batting and wicket-keeping besides plotting the opposition’s downfall as captain. It could be too much work in a high-pressure event like the IPL but Rahul is excited about the challenge.
“I don’t know if it is going play a part or hamper anything but I am quite looking forward to the responsibility, it is something I have always enjoyed. I am going in with an open mind and learn on the go.
“It is a huge bonus to have someone like Anil bhai (head coach) who comes with so much experience. He knows exactly what the players go through and the challenges involved,” he said.
Following Dhoni’s international retirement, Rahul has also emerged as the first-choice wicket-keeper batsman in the Indian team. Does it put extra pressure on him that his skills behind the stumps will be constantly compared with World Cup-winning skipper?
“Does it make me conscious? Not so far at least. My focus is solely on the IPL and getting some cricket under me. It (Dhoni’s place) is shoe or a place nobody can ever fill in Indian cricket.
“Whatever role is given to me, it is something I am grateful for. The challenge excites me. I am not really conscious about it, I am very clear about what my role is,” asserted Rahul.
Before the team’s departure to Dubai, Rahul had spoken about the fears he had developed about his game during lockdown. The KXIP squad has been training for more than a week now and skipper said it is normal for players to feel nervous or anxious coming back from the probably longest break of their careers.
“We are all slightly nervous because we have not played a lot of cricket and tournament like the IPL is huge. I would be lying if I said all of us are not nervous at all but that is the challenge of sport. No one expected this to happen.
“It is important we use these three weeks to get enough time working on our skills. Play a lot of balls and bowlers bowl a lot of balls and slowly build up being mindful that our bodies have not taken so much load in months,” he said.
Rahul said his first hit in the nets in Bengaluru after months of lockdown made him feel scary as his game was “all over the place” but he gradually got better.
“But I knew I would be rusty and there was nothing to panic. Luckily, we have enough training time to try and get our touch and feel back.”
The pitches across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah are expected be on the slower side and all teams are preparing accordingly.
“If the wickets are going to be slow the approach will have to be try and bring down the target from 180-190 to 160-170. It is important that the set batsman carries on till the 20th over (in such conditions),” Rahul added.