Former RCB skipper Virat Kohli has been quite vocal about his support for KL Rahul from the day Rahul entered into the Indian cricket team. And KL Rahul proved himself worthy of Kohli’s support as today he is India’s mainstay in all three formats and is in line to become the next leader of the Indian cricket team.
Rahul’s journey in IPL started with RCB in 2013, the same year when Kohli was elected as the skipper of the team. However, Sunrisers Hyderabad roped in the youngster for the next two seasons. But he returned to RCB in 2016 and finished the season as the franchise’s third-highest run-scorer with 397 runs in 14 games.
Talking about the two best transformation stories he has come across in the league, Kohli picked Rahul and Yuzvendra Chahal before he continued on the former, recalling the 29-year-old in his early days in the IPL.
“The only two people who come to mind for me are KL (Rahul) and Yuzi (Yuzvendra Chahal). KL Rahul was at RCB in 2013 along with Karun and Mayank. KL Rahul was never a guy who was looked at as a T20 specialist. He was part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2015 and Avinash Vaidya was our manager before. He approached me because he was in touch with KL Rahul, and he was not getting any game time. And I had seen him play for India,” said Kohli on ‘The RCB Podcast.
Kohli revealed that he was not in touch with Rahul after he left RCB but knew about his wonders in first-class cricket.
“I hadn’t seen much of KL since he left RCB, and I had heard he is doing well in first-class cricket. He was very young when he was at RCB, and I was already playing for India and we were regularly playing for RCB. So, we never really connected in a very detailed manner,” he added.
I was very impressed with his body language, his confidence, his demeanor: Virat Kohli on Rahul’s outing in Australia
KL Rahul made his international debut in Australia when he got a chance to feature in the 3rd test match in the 2014-15 Border Gavaskar series. Kohli added that Rahul first caught his attention in 2014, during India’s tour of Australia and he was amazed by his confidence and body language.
“We wouldn’t spend so much time with each other. I had seen him play in Australia in 2014 when he made his Test debut and I felt like, ‘Wow! He’s seriously worked some wonder on his game. He’s come back as an amazing player, and he started off so strongly in Australia.’ I was very impressed with his body language, his confidence, his demeanor,” he said.
“He was playing for the Sunrisers and wasn’t getting many opportunities and the opportunities that he got, I felt like he was playing under pressure, you could see he was trying to prove a point, trying to prove himself in the IPL. When the opportunity came through, I thought, this guy has got unbelievable talent, and maybe playing for Bangalore and RCB would ease things off for him because there, he’s playing in front of his home crowd and there’s AB, Chris, and myself here and if KL can play a role, maybe he can grow in confidence.”
KL Rahul had an exceptional 2016 season of the IPL where he averaged 44.11 with a strike rate of 146.49 with four half-century scores. Kohli stated that the way Rahul batted, he saw the transformation of a player who was just there to a beast on the field.
“He doesn’t need to be the focal point or that youngster who has to prove himself. It’s all about being a part of this great team and showing what he can do. And the way he batted that season, for me, that was a great transformation of seeing a player who was just there and there about to becoming suddenly this beast in six months’ time. From there on he’s carried through,” Kohli said.
• Virat Kohli reveals the transformation story of KL Rahul.
• Rahul played under Virat Kohli in 2013 and 2016.