KL Rahul says he can't compare himself to MS Dhoni or Rohit Sharma

KL Rahul, who will lead India in their upcoming three-match ODI series in Zimbabwe, said that he or any other player or captain can’t be compared to MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma for what the duo have achieved for Indian cricket.
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“I am a calm person and I can't go out there and try to be something else.”

KL Rahul is set to return to action after a long gap of almost three months, having undergone a surgery for sports hernia in Germany, before he was tested positive for covid-19. He’ll captain India in the upcoming three-match ODI series in Zimbabwe, beginning Thursday, August 18 - which will be his first competitive outing since the IPL 2022 eliminator clash.

Known for his calm demeanour, the 30-year-old was asked on the eve of the series if the trait is similar to what has been seen in present all-format skipper Rohit Sharma and the great MS Dhoni, and if he sees himself similar to two of India’s greats. Rahul dismissed the comparison idea, stating that no one “should be put in the same breath”, as the two, while opening up on his own approach.

"I don't know. I don't compare, personally,” said Rahul on Wednesday. “The names (MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma), I can't even compare myself as a leader with these guys because their numbers or achievements are far greater and what they have done for the country, I don't think anyone should be put in the same breath.

"For me, I am still young and this is my second series as captain. Obviously, I have played under them and learned a lot from them and as players and as guys in the team, you learn from each other over the years. I have picked up a few qualities from these guys.

"A captain has to be true to himself, then it spreads to the players. I am a calm person and I can't go out there and try to be something else. I believe that is not fair to myself and to the team and to the game. I try to be myself in the best way possible. You try to let other players be themselves and express themselves."

Rahul has had a fair share of injuries in the past, and the recent setbacks resulted in him missing an all-format tour of England and a white-ball trip to the West Indies. He was cleared to play after passing a fitness test, and named the skipper with Shikhar Dhawan as his deputy for the series.

The stylish batter is now keen on stepping onto the field again, and credited his teammates and the management for creating an environment that “can help a player transform from being a good player to a great player”.

“Injuries are part of sport and that part hasn’t been too kind to me, but it’s part of the journey, and you got to take the good and the bad,” he said.

“You might be out for two months but they haven’t forgotten what you have done for the team and the country in the last two-three years. Players actually thrive in such an environment.

“It is this kind of environment that can help a player transform from being a good player to a great player, playing a lot more match-winning innings for his team.

“It is very important for a player to get the backing of selectors, coach and captain. It gives you so much confidence that your mindset is clear and you can focus on the things that are necessary. It becomes easy for the player that your support group is backing you.”

Rahul was also confident of Kuldeep Yadav and Deepak Chahar finding their groove right away, after they too, had been out of action with injuries recently.

“Myself, Kuldeep and Deepak (Chahar), we were all at NCA (for rehab) and were all preparing for this series," he said. “So I know they have prepared well and they know what they need to do. For me, it’s about managing them and giving them that confidence, allow them to express themselves, and have that freedom to do what they want to do.”

He further added that player management is key to leadership, and must be addressed keeping the workload in mind with the ever-packed cricketing calendar.

“It will be (challenging) for any leader as to how good you are in managing your players and bringing the best out of them," Rahul said.

“Everybody is in a different place in their careers, and few of us have come back from injuries, few have played a lot of cricket and how do you manage their bodies and how do you manage mindset and nervousness of guys who are coming after a long break, and those are challenges as a leader.

“Avesh, Siraj and Prasidh have been playing continuously since the start of IPL. It is about little bit of managing their bodies and little bit of strategies and sit and speak with them.”