Birmingham: Different class, different planet. That's how KL Rahul described his opening partner Rohit Sharma after the latter scored his fourth century of the ongoing World Cup in the game against Bangladesh at Edgbaston on Tuesday (July 2).
Rohit's 92-ball 104 that came in a 180-run opening stand with Rahul set the base for India's win which took them to the semifinal. Rahul made a steady 92-ball 77, and said it would have been foolish to try and emulate the way Rohit batted.
"You really need to be a fool if you get tempted to bat like him because he is just a different class, he is from a different planet altogether when he gets going," he said. "He made it look really easy today but the wicket wasn’t easy. It was two-paced, it was up and down, wasn’t coming on to the bat all that well but the way he played... he is in good form but still you need to keep putting up those performances. It's special. That is what is expected out of him and he is delivering every time. I think just to bat with him is really easy because he takes the pressure off you which I feel like I had to do it but I didn’t have to because he keeps getting the boundaries and the scoreboard keeps ticking. It’s great batting with him, it’s great fun."
Since being made to open the batting in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, Rahul has scores of 57, 30, 48, 0 and 77 - all starts, but none big. Rahul played down concerns, saying he is in a good headspace and a bigger knock is not too far.
"Honestly, I have been batting well and this hasn’t played on my mind too much. I am playing the role to the best of my ability and a little disappointed that I can’t carry on but I know if I keep my processes right and if I keep focusing on doing the right things, eventually it will come.
"It will be great to score big runs for every batsman when he walks in that's what he wants to do. I've been batting well, in good headspace. I just want to keep doing the things I've been doing right, try and probably improve each innings and see if I can prolong the right things I've been doing till 60-70. If I can do it for a bit longer, obviously I'll get the big score and it will benefit the team.
"When I say convert, it means batting deeper, batting till 35 or 45 overs as much as I can because I know in conditions like this, in a one-day international, the set batsman can do the most damage. So it’s important but with each innings, I am learning and if I will follow the same process and if I keep learning from each innings and try to get better, I will get there eventually and put up better performances for the team."
Rahul said he does talk to his teammates about converting the knocks to big ones, but added that it eventually comes down to finding a way himself.
"I've spoken to the batting coach (Sanjay Bangar) and I do speak to my partners and teammates who have done it before and who can help me out. It's a unit which is young, we have great friendship and camaraderie so we do talk a lot about cricket," he said. "But it's each one's own finding. As a batsman you find your own way to get runs, everyone is blessed differently and no two people can follow the same pattern. I need to find out what's best for me in the middle. I'm sure it will come. I'm doing a lot of right things, if I do it for longer I'll know how to do it again and again. Fingers crossed it comes sooner and then I can go onto the semifinal and final feeling/knowing how exactly I can pace my innings."
Despite the 180-run opening stand in 29.2 overs, India ended with only 314 for 9 with the middle order struggling for a strong finish again. Rahul said the team was not dependent on the top order, stressing everyone had the ability to 'play 360'
"I don’t think so. Rohit has been in great form. He has got the most runs for the team but everyone else has chipped in and that has always been the chat from the batting group. To keep putting up contributions towards the middle order and in the death and everybody has been performing really well. I don’t think it has been any pressure on the top order or the middle order. Everybody has been performing well," he said.
"When we walk in, we have different roles and situations. Each player is different and gifted differently. It's not like somebody cannot play slowly or somebody cannot play big shots, we can all play 360, we all can play at 150 strike-rate. We've proved it time and again, that's not what's important at this stage. It's important to understand the team roles and do the best you can. The way Rishabh's come in, in the last couple of games he has shown glimpses of what he can do in the middle when we get off to starts like today. It gives everyone the freedom to go for their shots, that's the role we've stuck to and intend to keep doing."