Zim vs Ind 2022 – KL Rahul hopes to build on fond memories of Zimbabwe as it returns to the scene of its debut

After a nearly three-month layoff due to a sports hernia and Covid-19, KL Rahul is enjoying being back in the Indian locker room. Six years after his breakthrough in whiteball cricket in Zimbabwe, Rahul returns to the country as India’s replacement captain. When he takes to the field on Thursday, it will be only his second full series as captain.

“First of all, I always look at myself as a player,” Rahul said on the eve of the first ODI. “I’m not captain or leader until I cross the border. We’ve been playing together for a long time. Same group, we’ve toured before. Even though there are a lot of young people, we have a lot of IPL cricket together and against each other.

“There’s a lot of respect for the talent that everyone has, and how they’ve performed and how far they’ve come in their careers. It’s a lot of fun. For me, I’ve been away for two months. Just to come back to the Indian dressing room And just to talk and laugh in the group is great.”

In the time he’s gone, Rahul has seen the competition for places heat up, especially in the T20I lineup. But he spoke beamingly about the team environment and how players coming back from injuries are not insecure about their position. Rahul said it would benefit him to know that his work from the past two years leading up to the injury would not be forgotten.

“It’s very important for every player,” he said when asked about team management communications. “When the selectors and captain-coach support you, it gives you so much more confidence. Your mindset is clear. You can focus on things that are needed and things that are important: your game and skill.”

“It makes it easy for a player to know that your support team supports you and that they believe you, even though you’ve had a two-month gap, but they haven’t forgotten what you’ve done for the team and for the country. the past two to three years, so that gives a lot of confidence.

“Players thrive in situations like this, when you create a conforming environment and give players confidence. That’s when he can go from being a good player to a bigger player who can play many more match-winning innings for the team.

Rahul’s last competitive match came in May. While in rehab, he took advantage of “taking the good with the bad” and accepting circumstances beyond his control. As he makes a comeback, Rahul hopes to make some happy memories in Harare before taking on bigger challenges at the Asian Cup and T20 World Cup.

“My ODI and T20I debut was in Harare, I got a 100 in my first race, so I have great memories here,” he said. “Hopefully I can replenish those memories. To come back here after so many years and get the chance to lead your country, of course when you look back, it’s very nice. As a person you can see how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come.” “You came as a player. It gives me great joy. Hopefully it can contribute to those good memories and play good cricket next week.”

However, the one thing he won’t do is be someone else, even if it might be tempting enough to try to copy leadership styles that made MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli successful in various formats. “I don’t compare myself [with Dhoni or Kohli’s captaincy style]’, he said. “The names you mentioned, I can’t even compare myself to them as a leader because their achievements are much greater. What they’ve done for the country, I don’t think anyone else should be put in the same breath.

“I’m still young, this is only my second series as captain. Obviously I’ve played among them, learned a lot from them. As players in the team you learn from each other over the years. You learn good qualities from your teammates, and I’ve picked up on good qualities from these guys.

“But my personality is like that, I only feel when a captain is true to himself, it spreads to the other players. I’m a calm person, so I can’t go out and try to be someone else. I believe it is is not. fair to the team, myself or the game. I try to be myself and let the other players be themselves, express themselves as they want. There will be no pressure on the players to be different.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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