India's vice-captain in white-ball cricket, KL Rahul has been criticised quite a lot for his strike rate in the first six overs, but the 30-year-old believes that numbers can be deceptive and not always tell the whole story. The right-handed opener, however, admitted that he working on that aspect of his game and only wants to get batter as an opener.
In 61 T20Is, Rahul has an average of close to 40 and a strike rate of 140.91. However, he has a strike rate of just 118.8 in the first six overs since 2021. Even in the Indian Premier League, the stylish batter from Karnataka has been criticised for not showing enough intent in the powerplay. Rahul believes that it is difficult to maintain the same tempo throughout an innings.
"Look, (it's) obviously something that every player works towards. No one is perfect. No one in that dressing room is perfect. Everyone is working towards something. Everyone has a certain role to do," said Rahul prior to the first T20I of the three-match series against Australia on Monday (September 19).
"Obviously, strike rates are taken at an overall basis. You never see when that batsman has played at a certain strike rate, whether it was important for him to play at 200 strike rate or if the team could have still won playing at 100-120 strike rate. So these are the things that not everybody analyses. Or if you look at it, it looks slow.
"Yes, it is something that I am working at. Obviously, the roles that have been defined to each player in the last 10-12 months have been very clear. And the player understands what is expected of him, and the player is working towards it. Obviously, I am just working towards how I can better myself as an opening batter, and see how I can have the most impact for my team whenever I go out to play in the middle."
Talking about all the criticisms he faces from people outside the dressing room, Rahul said: “When he (the other reporter) asked about criticism, that is why I asked what particularly. Because we keep getting criticised for a lot of things. But the most important thing for the player in the dressing room is what his captain, what his coach, and his players think of him.
"And only we know what role is expected of each person. Everyone is trying to give their best, and not every time will a player succeed. And that is the kind of environment we have created, where players are not afraid to play, or players are not afraid to make mistakes. This is what we do. We work the hardest for this, right?
"Everybody can criticise, but we criticise ourselves more than any of you do. For us, this is what we have dreamt of doing. We are representing our country. We want to win games, we want to win the World Cup, all of that is on our mind. And when we don't do well, it hurts us the most.
"For us, it is what goes on in our team that is most important. We have had a leader, we have had a coach, we have had a support staff that are encouraging players, appreciating players not just when they do well but also when they are going through a tough time. Which is what a player wants to see. Which is what any individual in any field would want to see.
"That little bit of support, that little bit of care when someone is down, when someone has not had a great game. That is what I have got, that is what everyone in the team gets. That is exactly where we want to be as a team. And that is exactly where we are. That is something we try to build on. Individuals will make mistakes and learn from it when the environment is such that you do get the support and freedom to go out there and be yourselves and express yourselves."
It's easier to set the pace of your innings if you have a target in front of you but you don't have that luxury while batting first. India didn't show enough intent in the first two games of the 2021 T20 World Cup and ended up getting knocked out in the group-stage. Indian skipper Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid have been very vocal about batting with a free mindset in the first innings and KL Rahul feels no different.
"It's T20 cricket, and the more you play and the more the game has evolved, batting first or batting second, any stage of the game, you have to be aggressive. You have to be in the mindset where you are looking to hit boundaries," Rahul said.
"It is the same thing with me when I go to open the batting. When you are batting first, you want to give yourself three or four balls to understand how the pitch is behaving. And then try and see how you can put bowlers under pressure, how you can utilise the powerplay, and get your teams off to a good start.
"These are things that run in your mind, you speak to your partner, you help each other out. You have a discussion about the pitch, what are the shots you can play, what are the areas you can target, these are some things that you speak to each other, and you come up with a plan."
This will be India’s penultimate T20I series before the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia and Rahul said the team is yet to play to its full potential. "Skill-wise our performance was only 80-85 percent. There are a few things we need to fix. You can only win big events if all these are done well and the team comes together to win the championship," said Rahul, while talking about India's early exit from the Asia Cup.
"What happened in Asia Cup and 2021 World Cup (both early exit), we made (committed) different mistakes in those two events. We are very clear about what went wrong and we are trying to learn from it."