Rahul ‘nervous’ ahead of Test comeback

“The body is still very unsure and it keeps holding me back every time”

Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo

India opener Lokesh Rahul has admitted that he is “nervous” about his Test comeback as he doesn’t want to aggravate the shoulder injury he suffered earlier this year.

Rahul injured his shoulder during India’s four-Test series against Australia and subsequently underwent surgery.

Despite having made a full recovery, Rahul is unsure how his shoulder will cope in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.

“I am still very nervous,” he told bcci.tv. “The body is still very unsure and it keeps holding me back every time. That’s the biggest challenge coming back from injury.

“You know that you are physically fit and you have done everything that you can, worked really hard, you are feeling stronger, you are feeling fitter. But the mind always tells you what if it happens again, what if you have to go through the same grind for three months, what if your shoulder is not ready, what if you [have] come back early?

“There are a lot of questions, a lot of doubts and that’s the biggest challenge and fight for me. I have been enjoying each day and I have been a person who takes it as it comes. If it happens again, it happens again. It’s not in my control, I have done everything I can to get back. I tried to get my shoulder stronger, my body stronger. Once I put my helmet on, I forget all of these things. You see the ball, you see the ball pitched up to you and it has to be driven, you will drive. Your body is used to that for 15 years. Injured or not injured, your body just reacts. The fear is obviously there but I will fight it and I will overcome that.”

Rahul missed the Indian Premier League (IPL), Champions Trophy and India’s limited overs tour of the West Indies as a result of his shoulder injury.

However, while his road to recovery was a tough one, he pointed out that he was able to get healthy earlier than expected since he was eager to represent his country as soon as possible.

“Just wake up every morning and to do the same boring thing again and again is quite tiring and it starts to get to you,” he admitted. “You start questioning yourself, asking yourself if you really want to do all these boring things. You chose a sport that is exciting and challenges you every day and here you are, waking up and doing boring things.

“But I woke up and there was something that pushed me to go to the gym, go to the physio, go through the painful process, needling and then pushing my shoulder. It was quite tough but it is part of a sportsman’s life and part of our career. It’s good that things like this happened to me early and I am hoping for an injury-free career going forward.

“The surgeon and the physio were really happy that I could come back in three months. They were expecting me to come back a lot later but I did pay a lot of attention to my rehab. I was very disciplined and very eager to get back to the team as soon as I could. I didn’t want to miss out on any more matches.”

When India last toured Sri Lanka back in 2015, Rahul struggled in every innings, except one, where he made 108. Since he was unable to reach double figures in any of his other innings, the 25-year-old finished with 126 runs at an average of 21.

“The pitches here are very helpful for whoever does well. Fast bowlers have something [for them] in the wicket, the ball will spin and bounce a little bit, but if you apply yourself, you will get a lot of runs,” he said. “What I learnt from the last tour was, I left a few balls and got bowled. I went back and worked a lot on my batting.

“I decided to play a lot closer to the body and the Kookaburra ball does a little bit for the first 20-25 overs and then you can play your shots and get a lot of runs. So, if I can fight through that as an opening batsman, then there are a lot of runs to be made.”

In the warm-up game against a Sri Lanka Board President’s XI, Rahul struck a 58-ball 54, which helped boost his confidence ahead of the first Test, which begins on Wednesday. 

“It has been quite a tough time to be away from cricket, to be away from the thing that you love the most,” he said. “To just sit at home and watch the boys playing, it was really hard for me. I was middling the ball from ball one, hit a few boundaries from the middle of the bat, rotated the strike and not a lot of balls beat my bat.”

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