K.L. Rahul is all about keeping it real and staying true to who you are.
What’s the one reason you’ve never admitted you became a cricket player?
Well, there is no special reason I can tell you that I haven’t told anybody else. It was love at first sight. I just fell in love with the game and as early as I can remember, when I was two or three years old, I’d run around the house with a bat in my hand, and make my dad throw balls at me all day. I was just a very sporty kid but cricket was something I became really good at. Since I started playing, I’ve been doing well so once I finished school, I took it up seriously. I guess I always knew that I wanted to be a cricketer and nothing else.
You’re one of the future hopes of Indian cricket. Is it a burden or encouragement?
Honestly, I have started well but it is still just the beginning and I have a long way to go. In the last three years or so that I have played for the country, I’ve learnt a lot and my game’s gone through a lot of changes. I think I’m a lot more experienced, a lot more mature as a player and as a person. That people look up to you and believe you can do well for the country is a great encouragement and it only makes me hungrier, more responsible and more dedicated to my game and to myself. I just want to keep getting better.
It’s IPL season, and T20 is as exciting as it is fast. What draws players to this format?
Look, obviously, T20 is a spectator sport. That’s what one loves about cricket— the challenge. And cricketers love that challenge as well because there’s not a lot of time to think... it’s fast and you have to really be fit to do well in this format. Of course, you also need to have the skill; especially in the IPL, where you play against your own teammates who know your strengths and weaknesses. And to come out good means you must have worked really hard, had a great head on your shoulders, and that you know your game well. Also, you make so many friends along the way from different countries. You get to hear their stories and how they’ve come up. It’s a fantastic experience.
What about Test cricket? How do you feel about that?
Test cricket is the most challenging format and it always will be. And I think it will be the most appreciated and most-wanted format for a player to play in and represent their country. Test cricket is a mix of a lot of things—mental strength, endurance through five days of constant pressure and fortitude. I don’t think it will ever go out of fashion and I honestly love playing Test cricket. It’s the most challenging format.
You have a fashion sensibility where you’re not afraid to experiment, but also like to keep it simple. Care to elaborate?
Yeah, I’ve always had a good eye for fashion. I’m not a very loud person, be it with my style or my personality. I try to keep things simple and basic, and yet find a way to keep it stylish. Even going forward, I think that’ll be my style.
If you had to sum up your fashion sense in a sentence, what would it be?
I don’t know. I love wearing comfortable stuff. But I do try to dress up for occasions. If there’s a formal event, I would love to wear suits. I love suits. I have a bunch of them at home. I think a man looks the most dapper and the most stylish in a suit. I like wearing Indian clothes, if there are festivals. But I like to keep it classy and stylish.
Who are some of your style icons and why?
David Beckham has obviously been my style icon since I was 11 or 12. There are a lot of people who I don’t want to become but I admire for their fashion sense. Beckham is definitely the most stylish sportsman.
This is a denim story, and sports-people tend to be most comfortable in athleisure. What’s your denim ideology?
Yes, athleisure is the way to go for me—joggers, T-shirts, sneakers, and shorts and ganjis for the summer. And caps! That’s mostly my style. Denim has found a way to be in fashion matrix from the time it was created and I don’t think it will ever go out of style. If you have a few pairs of cool denims, you are sorted. It goes well with everything. You know how the joggers have taken over the scenario, people tend to feel comfortable in joggers. But that’s also how I feel about denims.
You have a whole horde of female fans. Have any of them ever made you blush?
[Laughs] I don’t know. I mean, I’m not saying I don’t have female fans, but I’m pretty overwhelmed with the love, and a lot of girls who find a way to make me blush. I’m a sucker for compliments and they have found ways to do that on a daily basis. Which guy doesn’t like compliments? I love attention, too. Hey, I’m a regular guy.
We have this idea called #MakeHerSmile, where we believe it’s a man’s job to make every woman in his life happy, and he can at least start with the small things. Agree?
Of course, I think it’s the most important thing to do. To compliment a woman, to make sure she’s comfortable, to make sure she’s happy, to make her smile. I think that’s necessary for a guy to do, and not just say it for the heck of saying it. There is this saying: “Happy women are the most beautiful.” I think it’s a man’s job to make every special woman in his life have a smile on her face, to make her feel special.
How do you keep so fit?
Over the last couple of years, I’ve gone through a lot of injury. Fitness is something I’ve paid a lot of attention to and I feel like my game’s improved. I feel like where I am today is because of how serious I have been with fitness and my diet, and how I started to look after myself. Injuries have made me humble and made me realise the value of the opportunities that have been given to me, and how I need to make every day count. It has made me realise how I should use the best years of my cricketing career to the best of my ability, and stay fit because of the kind of competition we face.
Sports is also about discipline. Do you have a secret code?
You develop discipline at training: I turn up on time and make sure I tick all the boxes. It doesn’t matter how tired I am. If there’s a 15-minute pool session, I make sure I do it. I’m careful about what I eat or drink, no matter how much I’m craving for something. That’s how I think you develop self-control.
My fitness mantra right now is to go to the gym or do some form of workout every day. It doesn’t matter if I have played a match, it doesn’t matter if I have travelled. I try to put in at least 15 to 20 minutes in the gym. It doesn’t mean I have to lift weights, do power training or a lot of running, it could just be a recovery run or 10 minutes of stretching, or even just 15 minutes of pool and recovery. I think it’s important to make sure you’re doing some-thing for your body every day. It has definitely helped me keep fitter and become more disciplined.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MUNEESH TARSEM
STYLING BY ISHA BHANSALI
HAIR & MAKE-UP BY NAVEEN YERRA
SHOT ON LOCATION AT ITC GARDENIA, BENGALURU