Last Updated: September 17, 2023, 19:50 IST
The Asia Cup 2023 turned out to be a good outing for the Indian team in general and for KL Rahul in particular considering his performances through the event answered or rather allayed growing fears over fitness ahead of the ICC ODI World Cup that starts from October 5.
Rahul underwent a surgery for a thigh injury he suffered during the IPL 2023 while fielding and underwent rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. Closer to the Asia Cup, he started taking part in match simulations raising hopes of a full recovery.
He joined the India squad that had gathered in Alur (Karnataka) for a preparatory camp. An unfortunate niggle days before the team was to leave for Sri Lanka extended his stay in the country as he was ruled out from the opening round of Asia Cup.
Right before the start of the second round i.e. Super 4 stage, Rahul announced his fitness and linked up with his India teammates in the island nation.
However, a bigger challenge lay ahead – proving match fitness and form. More so since Rahul also will have to perform the dual duty of a wicketkeeper as well.
He aced both the challenges. Against Pakistan, in his first competitive match in months, Rahul peeled off a sublime century and was quite effective behind the stumps too with India pushing with him despite the presence of a specialist Ishan Kishan in the squad too.
Having ‘ticked a lot of boxes’, Rahul is a happy man.
“I was a bit worried a couple of weeks ago (because of the niggle) but everything worked out really well,” Rahul said after the Asia Cup final as India beat Sri Lanka to lift the trophy. “Got to play some really good games against competitive teams and got to spend some time in the middle, got few runs, did well with the gloves so a lot of boxes ticked for me. Great to be back with the team, great to join in a winning way, hopefully this continues for the next couple of months.”
Rahul said practicing on batting-friendly Bengaluru pitches meant he was presented with a stiffer challenge to adjust the more demanding conditions in Sri Lanka.
“I am coming from playing in Bengaluru for the last four months, practising there, we get beautiful wickets back home (for batting). So that’s the challenge and you look forward to it. Happy that I was challenged and got to spend time in the middle. Probably not this much but these are the kind of wickets we are expecting during the world cup. Where I bat in the middle overs, playing spin will be really important,” he said.
The final turned out to be a one-sided affair with India bowling out Sri Lanka for 50 as Mohammed Siraj took six wickets – four of them in a single over. They chased down the target of 51 in just 6.1 overs to seal a 10-wicket win.
“It’s good to play game like this where bowlers get help and they have got a lot of help throughout the tournament. Phenomenal to see how they bowled, Siraj especially. Even though there was help but it takes a lot of control to put the ball in the right areas and he did the job for us. Everyone else chipped, kept the pressure up. We were hoping for something more competitive in the final but this will do a world of good for our bowlers,” Rahul said.