Biggest challenge was to get rid of fear and pain aspect of things: KL Rahul
Rahul had suffered a debilitating quadricep injury during the IPL, which later necessitated surgery in London
Overcoming the mental barrier was the biggest challenge India wicketkeeper KL Rahul faced while recovering from a serious quadricep injury that laid him low for nearly four months.
Rahul had suffered the debilitating injury during the IPL, which later necessitated surgery in London.
The 31-year-old underwent rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru to get fit for the Asia Cup. But a "niggle" resulted in him missing the first two group matches of the tournament in Sri Lanka.
However, he was assessed again on 4 September and cleared to join team India in Kandy for the sub-continental tournament. He also figures in the provisional squad for the World Cup to be held in India.
"A lot of times, it's also like you fight a big mental battle where you're always thinking at the back of your head that, okay, I might feel pain. And when you are in that mindset, you can't really start focusing on skills," said Rahul in a video posted by BCCI on Sunday.
"So, the biggest challenge was to get rid of that fear and get rid of that pain aspect of things." He added that wicket-keeping requires a lot of strength in the quads and the biggest "question mark" in his mind while rehabilitating was how he would convince himself to don the role again after such a big surgery.
"The big thing was to feel confident in my own body and be pain free in movements that require a lot of intensity. Especially, I knew coming back, I'll have to keep wicket as well.
"And that was one of the big concerns for physios and me, a big question mark in my head that the biggest challenge for me coming back will be wicket-keeping because of the quadricep injury.
"When you are wicket-keeping, squatting down every ball, you require a lot of strength in your quads and you need it to support you. You need your body to support you and be pain free." Rahul expressed his gratitude towards the physios who guided him through the tough phase.
"And once you get through that (pain free), and that can only happen when you take things step by step. And, like I said, I was in the hands of some really good physios and trainer at the NCA. So, they really guided me and they knew when to push me, when to step back." The cricketer added that it was quite a simple chase that resulted in the injury, and that he initially felt it would get better in a couple of weeks.
"I just tried to chase the ball and my tendon snap. I had a full-fledged tear, my tendon ripped apart from my quadriceps. So, when it happened, obviously me, my family, the franchise, the team, everybody had their fingers crossed hoping that wasn't a big tear... it was a small strain or I could get better in a couple of weeks.
"But once we did the scans in a couple of days, we knew it was a full tear and there was quite clear that in terms of how I can get better from this injury was to go under the knife and do surgery.
"The physios knew right away that surgery was the only way and that was the route that we had to take. It all happened really quickly." Rahul said that once the mental barrier was crossed he could concentrate on his cricketing skills and be ready for the rigours of the Asia Cup.
"So, once that happened, then skill took place. I started sprinting and doing all of that. But again, unfortunately, in the process of doing that, I developed a small niggle just before I could come back into into the team, which was a big downer, and I was actually ahead of schedule.
"And I felt like I could come back much before the Asia Cup and give myself a lot of time and prepare myself really well. But, unfortunately, one more niggle that set me back a couple of weeks.
"So, went through a lot of ups and downs within the recovery period as well. I was ready mentally, so I think that really helped me." The cricketer added that he was able to make a successful return to the field because he gave his body "enough time to recover".
"I'm feeling good, obviously. Good to be back with the team. It's been quite some time that I've been away from the game but, yeah, happy to be back ... everything worked out right on schedule. So, I'm happy that I could tick off all the boxes.
"When you have surgery, the most important thing is for you to respect that you put your body through something very big, you've had a big repair, so you have to respect it and give your body enough time to recover." The Lucknow Super Giants skipper in the IPL added that unlike previous injuries and surgeries, when he used to get bored and feel de-motivated while recuperating, this time around he "found the motivation" to the mundane stuff.
"Quite strange this time. The other time's I've had surgery or injuries, I find myself really being very bored, not knowing what to do or not having any motivation to wake up and go and do physio.
"But this time, that didn't happen. I don't know what it was, but I always found motivation to go and do the boring stuff this time, this period of being away from the game, to just not really be desperate about anything. I just wanted to enjoy the process of even doing physio, something as boring as physio, which is not as rewarding as playing a game of cricket.
"I've been away for four months, but it doesn't feel like it was a long time. It went by really quickly. Each day kept getting better... when you are seeing that improvement, you also feel motivated to go back.
Rahul said he was ready for the rigours of the 100-over game and feeling "confident" about his abilities.
"I'm happy to come back into the team and get back that rhythm of being in the middle, playing 50 overs, I mean, playing 100 overs (and) keeping for 50 overs, batting for as long as I need to and the team requires.
"So, I'm very excited about that (Asia Cup and World Cup) and fingers crossed that it'll all go well. I've prepared really well, I'm confident about myself."