Sydney: Criticised for failing in his debut Test in Melbourne, young Indian batsman Lokesh Rahul was relieved to score his maiden century in his second game to help India stay afloat on the third day of the fourth and final cricket Test against Australia, here today.
The 22-year-old Karnataka batsman could only muster 3 and 1 in the first and second innings respectively in the Boxing Day Test but struck a well-deserved ton at the SCG, while opening the innings.
"It feels good. It was not the debut that I had expected in Melbourne. I came out thinking this is my first game and I am very pleased with the way I batted today," said Rahul in the end of day's play press conference.
"Batting up in the order gave me little more time. And it was a conscious effort to spend some time in the middle and get those early nerves off. The wicket was pretty slow and the Australian bowlers made it harder by giving nothing away. I just kept telling myself to bat through the first session so that I can come out in second session and score more runs," he added.
Rahul had batted at number six and three respectively in the two innings in the third Test and had come a cropper, falling to top-edges on both occasions. But the first innings hundred at SCG, especially after dropping a simple catch on the opening day, came as a confidence booster.
"I am more relieved than being proud of myself. It was a nightmare debut and it didn't make my life easier coming to this second Test. I dropped a sitter. I kept telling myself the only way from here is up and I had to calm myself down. Definitely batting up the order gave me a little more time to myself," he said.
"I just kept playing one ball at a time ? that was my focus. It was important for me as an opener to play one ball at a time and enjoy the challenge. After I played last evening it was challenging to get through the last 25 overs and once I did that I felt like it was just a matter of focusing and keep my calm and play as long as I can," he added.
Rahul stitched a delightful 141-run third wicket partnership with skipper Virat Kohli (140 batting) and thanked all the teammates and support staff for their support in 'trying' times.
"Duncan Fletcher and Ravi Shastri have been very supportive. They have been talking to me a lot even in the nets and after the game, they told me to spend a little more time on the pitch and it will all seem easier after that.
"All the players are very supportive, they came and told me an international debut is not always what you expect, that it can be hard on you. So don't feel down and pick yourself up and focus on the challenges coming ahead," Rahul said.
The Bangalore boy not only shares the city with Indian legend Rahul Dravid but also the name and he recounts the days of advice from his role model.
"As a young kid in Bangalore, Rahul Dravid used to come and train with us whenever he was not playing international cricket and that gave us and all the youngsters an opportunity to go and talk to him. He is always been kind enough to share his experience. He has always given good advice. He is always a good role model to look up to," the namesake batsman added.
Rahul was dropped on Smith on 46 and prior to that there was a huge mix-up with Kohli. Eventually the youngster got out to a top-edged pull shot, his third such in three innings.
"I wasn't worried about what happened. I could have easily played a wrong shot after the dropped catch. I could have gotten out. I am very happy that I could bat through and stuck it out. Pleased with the way I batted and all these things didn't come to my mind," he said.
"You have to be lot more disciplined with your shot selection. The pull shot got me into trouble and that's something I have to go back and work it out. I do enjoy playing the pull shot in India but it is little different here: bowlers are quicker, pitches have more bounce. Like I said I have to discipline my shot selection lot more," he added.
In response to Australia's 572 for seven declared in the first innings, India still trail by 230 runs with two days left. When asked which way the match was headed, Rahul replied, "I think it is very important to come out tomorrow and get as many runs as we can. The wicket is getting slower and there is help for the spinners. Hopefully we can come out and put the ball in the right areas.
"I think we still have a chance from here if we bat really well tomorrow, may be two sessions and get runs, then come out and put big effort from the bowlers' end, then we will see how it goes."