Lokesh Rahul batted like a man possessed in the recent season of the VIVO Indian Premier League, evident from the fact that with 659 runs from 14 games he was one of the front-runners in the race for the Orange Cap.
His partnership with Chris Gayle at the top of the order was instrumental for many Kings XI Punjab victories and the duo managed to demolish just about any bowling attack on their day. As the campaign came to a disappointing end after a tough fight, kxip.in caught up with the 26-year-old swashbuckling opener as he shed some light on his season, the comfort level he has while batting with the Universe Boss and much more in a two-part special.
What was the inspiration for this remarkable season?
Every season, every opportunity is important at the level or at the age I am in my career. Obviously, I hadn’t played a lot of cricket before this, for the country; I was sitting out and I’ve been in and out of the team due to injuries and sickness. So, I was very hungry to perform and to spend some time in the middle. I hadn’t had too much of time in the middle in the last six months and I was looking to go out there and enjoy myself and we’re very happy with the way the season has gone.
After the first match, where you scored the fastest IPL 50, you made a comment that you wanted to prove that you are not just a Test specialist player. Was that one of the challenges you took on?
When I said that I didn’t particularly mean this year. People have seen me in the last couple of years playing T20 cricket. I don’t think people think I am a Test player anymore. It was 4-5 years back before I did well in the IPL, before I played for India in the T20. That’s when people were branding me as ‘Test cricketer’. That was in my head but what I meant when I said that was it was wrong for people to brand somebody as just who can play in one format. If somebody is good and plays well in one format they can do it all three formats.
Tell us something about your partnership with Chris Gayle. Both of you guys seemed to have good understanding in the middle, opening the batting…
Yeah, it is also because of the amount of cricket he has played. He is the most experienced T20 player in the world and he has played cricket for so long, he understands when somebody is going he will have to play the supporting role. And obviously, I’ve played a little bit of cricket myself and I understand that that’s how I have to play. So, that went without saying. We didn’t really discuss how the game goes and how it can help the team. Obviously, batting with him was a lot fun.
How is your relationship with Chris otherwise?
He has helped me over the years. I’ve spoken to him about opening the batting and the mind-set we should have and stuff. So, he’s been very helpful and just to be out there and you know, he is good fun on and off the field. He is all about having a good laugh, having a good time on the field and entertaining people. And yeah, when the Boss is batting the focus is always on him. So, I could be sneaky and get away sometimes and yet manage to damage the opposition.
Did some of these communications spill off the field?
Of course, the fact that we are friends helps. That’s why people say it’s important for 11 members to be great friends to have a champion team. It was a new year, a completely new team. We did get along with a lot of them, few of them we still need some more time with them to understand and stuff and that’s how the team game goes.