Arguably one of the highly-rated young talent in the country, KL Rahul climbed up the ladder in Indian cricket on the basis of consistent performances. Making full use of the opportunities, his breakthrough 2013-14 season laid the foundation of Karnataka's Ranji Trophy triumph, proving his credentials as a first-class cricketer. Then, a profitable 2016 IPL season saw him earning his cap for the national team.
His appetite for runs further gave India an opportunity to boast of an extra option at the top of the order. But, as all good things come to an end, Rahul hit a lean patch that saw him getting dropped from the side. And, just when things couldn't get any worse for him, the Karnataka cricketer found himself in the middle of a controversy following his appearance on popular chat show 'Koffee With Karan' alongside teammate Hardik Pandya.
And, what followed later had a great impact on the young cricketer. Slammed by a billion fans and suspended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Rahul endured the worst possible nightmare a cricketer can be exposed to. But, rather than letting the incident affect his mindset, Rahul used it as an opportunity to channelise his frustration into fruitful results.
"It has been a hard time, no doubt. As a player, as a person, everyone has to go through difficult times and it was my time to go through that. It gave me the time to reflect on my game, on myself. I have always been somebody who takes things as it comes and I am just happy to be back here now," Rahul told the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Before his suspension, Rahul was subject to immense criticism following his below-average performances in Australia. His frailties, especially against incoming deliveries which first appeared on the England tour, were exposed and exploited by the Australian seamers. And, the result was quite obvious for the right-hander.
Using the suspension for his own good, the right-handed batsman bolstered the chinks in his armour through hard work in the nets and by spending time with Rahul Dravid. Given an opportunity to regain his form, the 26-year-old was roped in for India A's home series against England Lions that brought a more focussed and responsible Rahul to the fore.
Leading from the front, Rahul scored 81 runs in India A's first innings. The right-hander stitched a 178-run stand with fellow opener and centurion Abhimanyu Easwaran to box the visitors out of the contest in Mysore. Apart from that, the elegant batsman also scored 89 runs in the first unofficial Test in Wayanad.
"I got some time off from international cricket, so I could come back to India and reflect on what was not going right for me. Fortunately, I got to play some India A games where the pressure is a bit less and where I could focus on my skill and my technique. Got to spend a lot of time with Rahul Dravid, working on my game and chatting about cricket. He helped a lot in the five games I played for India A. The time I have spent in the middle has helped," Rahul said.
Showing signs of improvement, Rahul was then called back into the national side for Australia's tour of India - a moment that he had been patiently waiting for to right his wrongs. The first T20I saw a rampant Rahul hammering his way to a 36-ball 50 in a match where the popular batsmen failed to deliver.
Continuing his fine form, the Indian opener began his innings in the second T20I in the same 'slambang' manner before getting dismissed for a 26-ball 47 that was decorated with four sixes. While India lost both the matches and eventually the T20I series, it was great to see Rahul return to form and emerging as the second-highest run-getter.
"It's nice to be back with the boys and be back in blue. Just happy that I have tasted a bit of success in the last two games and my batting has come out pretty well," he said. But, individual success means nothing to this dashing batsman as he expressed his disappointment after failing to guide his team to victory.
"But the other side is that I could have carried on in both innings, got a big score and won the game for my team. I'll take the two knocks but there is a lot that I have learnt from the two knocks and I want to improve," Rahul concluded.
For a man who became 'Public Enemy No 1' and was left to fend for himself in abyss following his controversy and, thereon, suspension, Rahul's grit and perseverance as a cricketer has undeniably allowed him to win back the fans and impress the Indian selectors with his renewed form.
Going into the five-match ODI series, Rahul would be eager to carry his blistering form to help India peg back the Aussies and bolster his chances of securing a spot in Virat Kohli-led side's playing XI for the ICC World Cup in England & Wales.