When KL Rahul became the first Indian batsman to score a century on ODI debut, he achieved a double feat of sorts. He scored the unbeaten 100 against Zimbabwe as an opener, and a year and a half ago, he had scored his maiden Test hundred also as an opener, against Australia in Sydney. That knock of 110 in the first innings had followed two nervy innings in Melbourne, where he scored 3 and 1 on debut. Before his first ODI hundred, however, he was carrying with him heaps of confidence and plenty of runs.
“Obviously with good performances in the last couple of months the confidence is there and I always knew I had the game and I had the skill-sets to be successful in all the three formats,” Rahul said. “It was just about getting opportunities, a few good games and the confidence in myself and the belief in me to go out there and know that I can perform well at any level in any format. So that happened in the last two months and I’m just carrying the same confidence into this series. I’ve just come from a good IPL and I carried the same momentum into this game, been watching the ball well.”
Rahul attributed that confidence and self-belief to his “failure” on Test debut and didn’t allow any such pressure to affect him in his first ODI.
“Of course, I learnt a lot from my debut in Australia and the way I was myself there,” he said. “It was a great learning for me. I would not have been such a confident player or the player I am today if I had not gotten that kind of failure in my first Test. I’m very happy that I learnt a lesson from my Test debut and I came out here and gave myself time and I did exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t let the moment or the pressure of my first match get over myself. I just gave myself time and remained calm. I was just looking to watch the ball and there was no other thought in my mind.
“I used to maybe overthink at times as to how I’ll get runs in one-dayers or T20s. I’ve worked really hard on my basics. I had all the shots in the book but when the need be, those shots should come right, like the square cut I played today. And if I hit a boundary, there’s so much pressure off me and I can knock a few balls around and maybe play a couple of dot balls. Those are the only things and also how I’ve been playing in the last couple of months, a lot of good innings coming into this series so the confidence is there. I’m in the right space in my mind and think of watching the ball and letting my instincts take over and that’s the best place to be for a batsman.”
More recently in the IPL, Rahul had been one of the key players in the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s line-up, with a tally of 397 runs at an average of 44.11, including four half-centuries. Only a few days ago, he had said valuable feedback from Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers had helped him improve his game in the shorter formats, and on Saturday he said the method behind scoring his hundred was to stick to the basics. Rahul opened with Karun Nair to chase 169, but on a pitch that was assisting the quicks, and the batsmen could not go for their shots from the first ball.
“My initial plan was to see the new ball off; we knew the wicket was doing a little bit,” Rahul said. “It was on the spongy side so I knew I had to play close to the body or wait for the balls that were short so I could capitalise. So I had a set plan and once I played the first 10 overs and I hit a few balls from the middle of the bat, I knew I was looking good.
“I just kept it simple, the target was not too big so I just knocked the ball around and ran hard, and once the opportunity was there to hit boundaries, I hit boundaries. I enjoyed myself, enjoyed my innings and definitely a great relief for me to get a one-day hundred, firstly, but also to get it in your first ODI is very special for me.”
Rahul could have easily not ended with a hundred on debut had he not struck a six to hit the winning runs. He was on 92 and India were only four runs away from their target before the 42nd over started. Rahul then moved to 94 and finished the match with a six over long-on.
“There’s not much that went through, I didn’t want to be on 94 for a long time and let a lot of thoughts come in my mind,” he said. “I picked my spot, I knew if the bowler bowled there, I was going [after it] no matter what. Luckily for me the bowler bowled there and I connected well, I held my shape so it all went well for me.”
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