Having closely observed the likes of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, Kings XI Punjab captain KL Rahul is hoping to replicate their approach as leaders during the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League.

Leading KXIP will be Rahul’s first high-profile stint as a captain.

“Of course. They (Dhoni and Kohli) have been the most inspiring cricketers and leaders in the last 10 years at least. Having the opportunity to play under them is great learning.”

“Both of them are completely different individuals and lead the team differently. But their passion for the team is the same, they always want to win and push the team together. I also want use the same approach with my team and look to lead from the front. It should feel like a team, it should feel like family,” he added.

Rahul has also picked up leadership nuggets from Rohit Sharma who captains Mumbai Indians and is India limited-overs vice-captain. “We are always constantly watching the game on the field, I always keep my eyes open to learning. You learn a lot watching the likes of Rohit,” he said.

“Guys like Kane Wiliamson. Hopefully, it (knowledge) is all stored in the back of my head (to be used in the tournament),” he added.

Rahul will have his plate full during the IPL. Apart from leading KXIP, he is also their opening batsman and wicketkeeper too.

The tasks may seem overwhelming but Rahul is looking forward to the challenge. “I don’t know if it is going play a part or hamper anything but I am quite looking forward to the responsibility, it is something I have always enjoyed. I am going in with an open mind and learn on the go,” he said.

KXIP have never won the IPL and once finished as the runners-up. They will be hoping for a good season in the UAE and Rahul will have the legendary Anil Kumble for support who is also the team’s head coach.

“It is a huge bonus to have someone like Anil bhai who comes with so much experience. He knows exactly what the players go through and the challenges involved,” he said.

Having stayed away from cricket for a long time due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rahul said the players are a little nervous

“We are all slightly nervous because we have not played a lot of cricket and tournament like the IPL is huge,” he said. “I would be lying if I said all of us are not nervous at all but that is the challenge of sport. No one expected this to happen. It is important we use these three weeks to get enough time working on our skills. Play a lot of balls and bowlers bowl a lot of balls and slowly build up being mindful that our bodies have not taken so much load in months.”

In his first practice session last month, Rahul realised his game was “all over the place” but he eventually got back into the groove. “But I knew I would be rusty and there was nothing to panic. Luckily, we have enough training time to try and get our touch and feel back,” the 28-year-old said.

With the entire IPL to be played in the UAE, the pitches there are expected to be slow. “If the wickets are going to be slow the approach will have to be try and bring down the target from 180-190 to 160-170. It is important that the set batsman carries on till the 20th over (in such conditions),” Rahul said.

With the retirement of Dhoni, Rahul is also being looked upon as the first-choice wicketkeeper for India in limited-overs cricket.

Filling into the shoes of someone like Dhoni can put anyone under pressure but Rahul isn’t worried about it.

“Does it make me conscious? Not so far at least. My focus is solely on the IPL and getting some cricket under me. It (Dhoni’s place) is shoe or a place nobody can ever fill in Indian cricket. Whatever role is given to me, it is something I am grateful for. The challenge excites me. I am not really conscious about it, I am very clear about what my role is,” he said.