Chennai: Kings XI Punjab batsman KL Rahul says opening the batting along side an in-form Chris Gayle has made his life easier as opposition bowlers are always focussed on the big-hitting West Indian, which gives him time to build his innings.
Rahul said he is enjoying his cricket now and learning from his flamboyant teammate Gayle, who "always plays with a big smile on his face and is a complete entertainer." "He is the most destructive T20 opener in the world. It is a privilege to open the batting with him and it makes my life so much easier," Rahul told PTI during an interaction.
"When the opposition bowling is focusing on him, that takes a little bit pressure out of me. I can just take my time and I can enjoy my cricket," he added. The stylish India batsman, who has so far scored 268 runs from seven IPL games at a strike rate of 170.70, said he is used to Gayle's company as they have played together for a few years at Royal Challengers Bangalore previously.
"We have played together for a few years now at RCB and now we are together. We enjoy each other's company. A great human being. So much fun to be around. A complete entertainer," Rahul said.
Asked if Gayle's aggression had rubbed off on him, the Karnataka batsman said: "Like I said. It is good to be playing with him. We understand each other's game really well. It is about just going and enjoying my cricket.
"That is what I learnt from Chris. He is always playing the game with a big smile on his face. And he enjoys entertaining the crowd even when under pressure. I think when the opposition is up against him they are always under pressure," he added.
Rahul said at present he is enjoying is batting but there is always scope for improvement. "I am very happy with the way I have been batting, the way I have been hitting the ball. But, obviously there is always scope for improvement. I have got a couple of 50s but I feel like I should have closed a couple of games and stayed not out at the end. That is the thing I am looking to improve in the second half of IPL," he said.
Rahul, who has so far played 21 Tests for the country, said as of now he has no plans to ply his trade in county cricket ahead of the forthcoming tour of England. "I am more focused on IPL right now. I haven't thought anything about what is going to happen later," he said.
Asked whether being in and out of the ODI squad has affected his confidence, Rahul said he knew opportunities would come his way and it was important to be patient. "Look I am only trying to improve as a player with each tournament, each game, each opportunity. I am not really thinking about what is going to happen in future or after the IPL or my position in the team.
"I am just enjoying my cricket. I want to be there. I am in good space. I know opportunities will come my way. I have to be patient, keep performing and be consistent," he said. Rahul, who is also donning the gloves for Kings XI, said he enjoyed keeping wickets in the shorter format as it helps him to get an idea about the wicket and plan his innings.
"So far it has been good. I enjoy wicket-keeping in the shorter format. I think when we are bowling first, it gives me an idea of how the wicket is behaving. Standing behind the stumps and plan my innings. It has been going good so far. I am enjoying it," he said.
He hailed the captaincy of Ravichandran Ashwin and said the Tamil Nadu off-spinner had been very proactive. "It has been brilliant so far. He (Ashwin) has been very proactive since the time the IPL has started and the camps begun. He has been very proactive. He is interacting with the boys and. He is really focused on helping the team and helping the youngsters out. Five wins in seven games and a lot of credit goes to him," Rahul said.
He also said former India batsman Virender Sehwag, who is Kings XI Punjab's mentor and director of operations, was supportive of Indian players in the squad, especially youngsters. "He (Sehwag) has been really supportive and helpful with the Indian players, especially youngsters. Lot of people, even the foreign players look up to him. And, having seen him bat for the country and making so many records, they obviously want to learn from him," Rahul said.
"With someone as a director, he has given the boys a lot of freedom. The atmosphere and composition of the dressing room has been fun," he signed off.