Karnataka cricketer K.L. Rahul proved critical to India's victory in the ACC Emerging Players Cup in Singapore. The youngster is keen to expand his horizons and post more runs

Barely a week ago, K.L. Rahul piloted India Under-23 to a title triumph in the Asian Cricket Council’s Emerging Players Cup at Singapore. The opener’s unbeaten 93 helped India defeat Pakistan by nine wickets in the final but the 21-year old is in no mood to nurse the goodwill that is washing ashore his life.

Back in Bangalore, Rahul quickly returned to the Chinnaswamy Stadium. And on a warm Thursday evening, when he stepped out of the National Cricket Academy’s gym, he slipped on a t-shirt as the earlier vest revealed the tattoos on his shoulders. Soft-spoken and extremely focussed on the game, Rahul did not want the photographer to zoom in on his youthful indulgence. Having cemented his berth with the Karnataka team during the last season, the youngster, who is also part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad, has always been looked upon as a player to watch out for in the future.

A slot in the India Under-23 team that played in Singapore, it was an apt recognition of his talent and consistency. Rahul lived up to the selectors’ faith with scores of 46,88,51,43 and the decisive 93 n.o. in the summit clash.

The tournament’s highest run-getter, who relished his foray into the India colours, said: “At the competition level, I wouldn’t say that it was as high as Ranji Trophy, but it was a different kind of challenge being abroad. You don’t know anything about the opposition or the conditions.”

It wasn’t a perfect script though as India suffered a shock-defeat against Afghanistan in the preliminary stage.

“The atmosphere in the dressing room was positive. We had one bad game against Afghanistan but we realised where we were lacking and worked harder.”

Soon it was time for the biggest match – a final against Pakistan. Rahul was ready. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As a kid, you always dream of playing for India against Pakistan in a final. I told myself that I am not coming back to the dressing room till we get those 160 runs. That is the only thing that was running in my mind,” he said.

A stroke-player, who dabbles both as an opener and as an occasional wicket-keeper, Rahul adds value to whichever team he represents. “I enjoy whatever role that is given to me, be it my position in the batting order or keeping wickets, I enjoy doing that for my team. I am happy to do anything,” he said. Indebted to his parents and coach Jairaj from his hometown Mangalore, Rahul believes that he is in a good space at the moment and said: “I keep watching the ball and now the ball looks good to me. I just want to continue the flow.”

There is also the inevitable comparison with the more famous Rahul – Dravid, who is one of his idols along with Sachin Tendulkar. “Some say I look like Rahul Dravid but I don’t think that I look like Rahul Dravid; maybe it comes from how much I have watched him. I also like Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers (his RCB team-mates),” Rahul said. As for the future, he quipped: “Whatever opportunity comes my way, I need to make sure that I do well.”