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“My parents used to tell me that cricket is not for small-town guy. I always gave them Dhoni’s example.” – KL Rahul © AFP & Getty Images

In the first contest of the three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe at Harare, India’s KL Rahul became the first Indian to reach three-figure mark on ODI debut. Rahul was awarded Player of the Match for his unbeaten 100, which was studded with a colossal six and seven swashbuckling fours on a track that had something on offer for the bowlers. He took his time and played the ball to its merit to take India to a 9-wicket win over the hosts. Unlike his Test debut, he was wasn’t in haste to make an impact. He rather kept his cool and made sure he doesn’t play rash shots. Full Cricket Scorecard: Zimbabwe vs India, IPL 2016, 1st ODI match, at Harare

“Not a bad start. I’ll take this after my debut in Test cricket. I knew the ball was going to do a little bit in the initial stage. My plan was to go there and play the first 10 overs. Once I went past that stage, I just looked to play my shots. I’m really happy with the way I batted today,” the 24-year old told BCCI.TV.

“We have a tradition of giving pep talks. It was my chance today. Coach Sanjay Bangar always picks on me and wants me to give a pep talk. And I have always enjoyed it,” laughs Rahul about giving pep talk to Team India before a match. Read – KL Rahul, Jasprit Bumrah shine in India’s comprehensive win over Zimbabwe in 1st ODI at Harare

Rahul has been making headlines with his match-winning performances in Indian Premier League (IPL) of late. For an individual like him who comes from a small town like Mangalore, playing international cricket is a big achievement. He added, “Getting ODI cap from MS Dhoni was a dream come true. I always looked up to him as a kid growing up from a small town to come (at international level) and make it big. My parents used to tell me that cricket is not for small-town guy. I always asked them to look at Dhoni. He’s the most successful captain. He’s been a role model for me and a lot of youngsters.”

Rahul made his Test debut in India’s tour Down Under in 2015, in which he miserably failed to display his mettle. However, his ODI debut was a different story all together. “I wasn’t as nervous to perform as I was on my Test debut Australia at MCG. I learnt my lesson (from maiden Test match). I gave myself a lot of time. I didn’t want to go there and do something extraordinary. I just wanted to back myself.” Read: Virat Kohli may be ready but there is still time for him to replace MS Dhoni

Rahul was on 94 not out when India needed 2 runs. Rahul was a just a six away from reaching a milestone. He added, “I’m a guy who doesn’t think of number. Even if I was not out of 96, that would have given a lot of satisfaction, knowing that my responsibility as an opener is to see the team through.”

Rahul showered heaps of praises on Ambati Rayudu with whom he stitched a 162-run stand. “When I was on 92, Rayudu knew I can get to my hundred. It was he who was doing all the permutation and combination. It all worked out well. I guess, I was just my day,” he concluded.