Indian batsman KL Rahul is keen to team up with England all-rounder Ben Stokes at the next edition of the IPL. Stokes enjoyed the summer of his life as he guided England to victory in the World Cup 2019 and then played a starring role in the subsequent Ashes 2019 series.
The 13th edition of the Twenty20 cricket league will be held in April and May next year, with the player auction taking place in December. In 2019, Stokes plays for the Rajasthan Royals, while Rahul currently plays for the Kings XI Punjab. In a wide-ranging interview, one of India’s star players also backed teammate Jasprit Bumrah to become one of the best bowlers in the world.
Rahul, 27, was speaking at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg after enjoying a flying lap in a modified Porsche GT2 RS driven by Austrian racing driver Patrick Friesacher.
How highly do you rate your teammate Jasprit Bumrah, can he be the best bowler in the world?
He’s a phenomenal talent and I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to play with him even before he had the opportunity to play for his country. We played on the same junior level team and he’s always someone that’s very determined and dedicated and very passionate about cricket, and he’s someone you don’t want to mess with because he bowls the ball at serious speeds and he’s a competitor off the field even when we are playing against each other.
There’s no mercy for the guys who play for the country – he’s always very competitive. The things that he’s doing for the country right now are absolutely fantastic and I know he’s only going to grow and get better.
Who were your idols growing up?
Obviously, for any kid playing any sport starting off, their fathers are the biggest role models. My dad played a little bit of cricket and he was always very supportive of me. He always encouraged me to take up the sport and be more serious about it so he was the first inspiration for me.
Then once I started watching cricket and playing a bit of cricket then the greats of the game: Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. Rahul Dravid comes from the same city as me so I could really relate to him and I had the opportunity to talk to him and play with him. These were my role models from cricket. Sporting role models are Roger Federer and my favourite footballer has always been Zlatan Ibrahimović.
How great a feeling is it when the batting is going well and you can’t miss?
That feeling is very very special but also it can go away from you really fast and, if you don’t stay humble and keep working hard and keep your head down, it can go away really fast. It’s learning, every day you learn so much about the sport and so much about yourself. The feeling of hitting the ball cleanly and making runs for your country and winning games is just I can’t think of any better feeling for me in the world.
Who are the toughest bowlers you have ever faced?
Pat Cummins who is the No.1 Test bowler right now. I found him very hard to face. Rashid Khan has always got the edge over me – he has my number a little bit. Nathan Lyon from Australia. All these guys and Bumrah of course. Facing him at training and a few games against him, he’s a competitor, he doesn’t give anything away.
What did you make of Ben Stokes’ heroic innings in the third Ashes Test? Was it the greatest innings ever played?
It’s funny because we were playing a Test match too in Antigua. But we were following the scores on the manager’s phone as we’re not really allowed to use phones during the game, just the manager kept checking for scores and we kept following ball by ball. What he did was unbelievable. It will always remain the best Test match that was ever played. To play an innings like that is incredible. he’s a phenomenal player and phenomenal athlete – you can watch that game over and over again.
Do you expect Ben Stokes to make a big impact in the IPL if he plays in 2020?
He can bowl, he’s a phenomenal fielder, yeah, he’s played out there before and he’s had a great impact on the teams he’s played for. I hope he can play for my team, it’d be great to have him on my team.
You’ve already achieved a lot in your career, what is next?
I’m not someone who sets goals or targets for myself. I just want to enjoy playing the sport I always wanted to play and see where I can go but just keep working hard, keep my head down and see where I can go. I’m sure I can surprise myself. That’s one of the reason why I don’t set targets for myself.
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