“I entered the ground today and I had to do some running,” Rahul told BCCI.tv after India’s training session on Friday afternoon. “I told my trainer, Rajini sir [Rajinikanth Sivagnanam] that my heart is racing, because the last time I was here, I had not such a great experience, or not such a great moment in my career. It was a bit bittersweet.
“That injury had, obviously, a huge impact on me and my career. It wasn’t such a happy moment for me, for my family. I’ve been through many injuries now in the little time that I’ve played for India. It’s not a great feeling for any athlete to keep getting injured so often and to go under the knife and to get surgeries is very, firstly, edifying – and, secondly, very painful.”
That pain, Rahul said, is both physical and psychological. “The most painful part is doing the rehab after that and trying to get fitter and stronger, and convincing yourself that it’s not going to happen again. It’s mentally very, very challenging. When it happened, it was obviously frustrating. I was very angry at what had happened and started questioning why and all of that.
“But I started seeing the best in what happened much later when I was in Bangalore, and realised that it came at a time when I really needed that break away from the game, because there was a lot going on with me mentally – and, for the first time in my career, I felt like I had no answers.”
“When it happened, it was obviously frustrating. I was very angry at what had happened and started questioning why and all of that. But I started seeing the best in what happened much later when I was in Bangalore – it came at a time when I really needed that break away from the game, because there was a lot going on with me mentally.”
Rahul is viewing Sunday’s fixture as an opportunity to consign his association of the Ekana Stadium with his injury to the past. “Obviously, I’m very happy to be back here in Lucknow and to change those memories and to make some new ones and some happy ones,” he said. “Obviously we play a very strong England team – they’re the champion team, the defending champions – so, looking forward to Sunday.”
He described the stadium as “very close to my heart” after witnessing the support of LSG’s fans for the first time in IPL 2023. “The turnout we saw from the crowd, the love, the support that we got in the last year was unreal,” Rahul said. “It’s the first time I really got to experience the Lucknow crowd or the support from the whole of UP [Uttar Pradesh] in full flow.”