Ten minutes into India's run-chase in the World Cup opener against Australia, the entire nation had flashbacks of the 2019 semifinals rushing back. KL Rahul found himself in the middle alongside Virat Kohli, with the team scorecard reading two runs for three wickets. Rahul, who had kept wickets for almost 50 overs in Chennai's heat, batted through to guide India over the line with six wickets to spare.
Picking up the Player of the Match award, Rahul was asked about the conversation with his batting partner Kohli in that critical position. Rahul jokingly said he would've liked some rest after keeping for over three overs.
“Quite honestly, not a lot of conversation. I was just trying to catch my breath as I just had a shower. I thought I would get a good half an hour – [or] an hour's – break, put the feet up and just rest up. But I was out there in no time, so there was a bit of rush. I was just trying to get my breath back.”
On a testing Chepauk pitch, where India's spinners had dominated the proceedings earlier, Australian seamers found a good amount of movement under the lights. Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood removed Ishan Kishan, Rohit Sharma and Shreyas Iyer for ducks in the first two overs. Rahul revealed that Kohli suggested the pair should bide the time and try to bat like it's Test cricket.
Rahul reveals the advice Virat Kohli gave him
“Virat said there's big help in the wicket, and [we] just have to play proper shots and play like it's Test cricket for some time and see where it goe. That was mostly the plan, and happy that we could do the job for the team,” said Rahul.
If it was 5 for 3 in the 2019 semi-final against New Zealand, India found themselves at 2 for 3 in their next World Cup game, four years apart. This was the first time in men's ODI cricket that India lost three of their top four for ducks.
India will not have to deal with the Chepauk at the ongoing World Cup again though, as they are the only team to not play twice at one venue in the group stage. They move to Delhi next to play Afghanistan, where South Africa and Sri Lanka broke the record on Saturday for the most runs scored in a World Cup match.
India's biggest challenge in the tournament will be adjusting to different conditions in the country as they travel to nine different venues for their group matches.