T20 World Cup loss against Pakistan hurts but we start from zero in Asia Cup, says KL Rahul
"The game starts from zero. There might be history of how many times we have played or how many times each team has won but it doesn’t count for anything," Rahul said.
India vice-captain KL Rahul made no bones about the hurt caused by their T20 World Cup loss to Pakistan last year but pointed out that both teams start from scratch in the Asia Cup opener in Dubai on Sunday. “Losing any game in a World Cup hurts,” said Rahul in a press conference on Friday. “Every team enters the World Cup wanting to start well. Unfortunately, it didn't happen for us. We were outplayed by a really strong Pakistan team. We get an opportunity to play against them once again. It’s a contest we are all looking forward to. The game starts from zero. There might be history of how many times we have played or how many times each team has won but it doesn’t count for anything."
Rahul said players have always been cordial off the field but such is the intensity of an India-Pakistan match that everyone wants to give his 110%. “You can’t shy away from it. As youngsters, we have always looked forward to being in such clashes. Once you cross the rope it becomes a game of bat and ball. You see the opposition as an opposition. I’m sure it’s the same for Pakistan. You give 10% more than a hundred percent in a game like that.
“But apart from that we still remain players. We have loved and played the sport. We have all had similar struggles. I have played some of them in the U-19 World Cup and I have followed their career. Before and after the game everything goes away and you become normal people and normal players. We try to learn from each other and talk to each other. It’s always been friendly that way.”
Hailed as one of the best chasing sides at one point in time, India’s stocks dipped last year when they weren’t being able to score well batting first. Rahul feels the constant experimentation last year and embracing a new no-holds-barred approach to batting has allowed the team to score more freely. “It’s being embraced by everybody. That’s the biggest step and it’s already been taken. From now on it’s only about building on it and getting stronger. Everyone knows what to do,” he said.
“In big tournaments, toss plays a big part. After the World Cup, we have challenged ourselves to win the toss and bat first and put ourselves in those situations where we have prepared ourselves for big tournaments like this or the World Cup. That was the goal and vision. It gives us a little more confidence when you keep doing something repeatedly over a period of time. Since we have done that, it’s not going to be on our minds. We understand how to pace our innings if the ball is moving. It’s part of our World Cup preparation.”
Rahul hasn’t played much international cricket due to an injury layoff but a decent ODI tour of Zimbabwe earlier this month has put him back on track just in time for the Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup. “Personally, playing three matches in Zimbabwe was good for me, for my recovery,” he said. “Obviously you spend time with the physio or at the academy but the game-specific feeling is always different. Being out in the middle is always the best way to assess. I will not judge myself on the basis of nets. I want to challenge myself in the middle. This tournament obviously gives that opportunity.”
Rahul also didn’t want to give much credence to talk that Virat Kohli’s impact had been significantly nullified because of his lack of form.
“A world-class player like Virat will obviously not be affected by what people are saying on the outside,” he said. “He has obviously had a little bit of a break. He was working on himself. When he was batting, he didn’t look out of form or out of touch. Obviously, he hasn’t been able to match the standards he has set for himself and I am sure he is hungry as well to come out and win matches. That is what he has always done throughout his career. The mindset is always the same. Good things will happen. We all eagerly want Virat to get back to the Virat Kohli form that everybody is talking about. We aren’t worried as an Indian team. I’m sure he isn’t worried.”