New Delhi: India opener Lokesh Rahul says the Test series against South Africa beginning next month will be the "biggest challenge" of his burgeoning career.
Rahul may be a certainty in the Test squad for the four-match series beginning on November 5 but it will be tough for him to make the playing as an opener in the presence of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan. But the 23-year-old is mentally preparing keeping in mind that he might be fielded as an opener in first Test in Mohali starting November 5.
"So far this (SA series) would be the biggest test for me. But look everything is in a challenge in itself. Sri Lanka are very good in their own conditions. Playing Australia of course is always challenging. I am happy to playing against teams like South Africa and Australia early on in my career. It is going to make me stronger as a cricketer," Bangalore-based Rahul said on Monday.
He has not played a competitive match since the final Test against Sri Lanka in last week of August.
Rahul did not represent his champion state side Karnataka in their first two games of Ranji Trophy due to an injury but is confident of gaining crucial match time starting with the next game against Vidarbha on October 15.
"I have recovered now. Hoping that I play the game on the 15th. The more match time the better it is ahead of the big series (South Africa). Though I have not been playing games, I have been working on my game and training regularly with my state team and excited about the matches coming up," said Rahul, who once competed in Red Bull Campus Cricket and is now supporting the initiative.
A question he is asked regularly is about consistency, having scored two Test centuries in 10 innings at a modest average of 25.60. Also he was criticised for not knowing where his off-stump is during the third Test against Sri Lanka, where he got out in both innings shouldering arms to incoming deliveries.
"Teams expect a lot from an opening batsman. It is a lot of responsibility. I have delivered sometimes and the other times I have not. I have taken it in my stride as a player and learnt from my mistakes. That is why I have worked on my batting. The South Africa series should be good fun. I can't wait to go out in the middle and give consistent performances from my team and country.
He also knows that he may not get to bat at his preferred opening position but he is not losing sleep over it.
"I am not worried about that. I am just looking at preparing well for the series and trying to prepare myself in a way that I would be playing the first Test. Selection is up to the management. I am happy to be playing anywhere," said the batsman, who made his forgettable debut in the middle order, only to come back and score a century at Sydney in the next Test match.
Does he have any specific plans to tackle the serious pace of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and now the team's rising star Kagiso Rabada?
"Their attack is pace heavy but I am not doing anything particular to be honest. I have just been working hard at the nets and in the gym. South Africa have bowlers who can clock good speeds. That will be there at the back of my mind. I will just stick to my gameplan and do what I do best," he concluded....