Picking MS Dhoni's brain is on KL Rahul's checklist for the next few weeks, as he wants to utilise every bit of advice from the Indian team's mentor, who, according to the opening batter, always brings a sense of calm into the dressing room.
Rahul, who is all set to open with Rohit Sharma in the T20 World Cup, where India will start against Pakistan on Sunday, said that there couldn't have been a better mentor than Dhoni in what promises to be a tough journey. "Obviously, MS Dhoni back with the team feels amazing because we have played under him and we have looked towards him as a mentor even when he was our captain," Rahul, who scored a fine half-century in the warm-up win against England on Monday, said during a Clubhouse session on ten years of Red Bull Campus Cricket.
"The bubble is really hard. It was all okay when it started with the IPL in 2020. We came out of five months of no cricket so we were excited to just play cricket. But the bio bubbles have been going on for so long that it is really hard"
Dhoni has often been described as an emotion by the observers and fans of the game, an emotion that binds everyone and above all, the Indian dressing room.
Rahul endorsed this view, describing him as the man everyone looks up to. "We loved having him in the dressing room when he was the captain. We loved the calmness. We have all looked up to him to help us out, to have him here is amazing," he said. "This gives us a sense of calmness, I have enjoyed spending time with him in the first two to three days and it has been a lot of fun. Looking forward to chewing his brain about cricket, captaincy and all things cricket."
Dhoni recently led Chennai Super Kings to a fourth IPL title and there is a chance that he will play one last time in front of the Super Kings' home crowd at Chepauk in 2022. "None of us are sure that IPL 2021 final was his last game," Rahul said.
Rahul feels that despite being on the other side of 40, the former skipper can hit the farthest sixes, beating some of the more muscular youngsters.
"I think Dhoni can give any of us stiff competition, he definitely is a guy who can hit the ball farthest, he is very strong and he is good (while running) between the wickets. He looks the fittest, it is good fun to have him," Rahul said.
Rahul has been one of the most consistent T20 performers for India, with astounding returns of 659, 593, 670 and 626 runs in the last four editions of IPL. And the fact that the last one-and-a-half editions of the IPL have been played in the UAE makes him confident of a good show from himself and the team.
"Playing consistently has helped me. The six-seven IPL games have helped us adapt to the conditions. The experience of playing in UAE last year helped me know what shots to play and will put me in good stead in preparing for the upcoming World Cup," he said.
But life in biobubbles has been taking its toll, he conceded.
Rahul, like most of the senior players, has been in biobubbles since June, and it is also the seventh confined environment he has been in starting with the IPL 2020, followed by the Australia tour (till he left due to injury), the England home series, the first half of the IPL in India, the World Test Championship, the Test series in England, the second half of IPL, and the T20 World Cup.
"The bubble is really hard. It was all okay when it started with the IPL in 2020. We came out of five months of no cricket so we were excited to just play cricket. But the bio bubbles have been going on for so long that it is really hard," he said.
However, the positive side of bubble, according to him, is getting to know team-mates better as there is very little in-person interaction with outside world.
"The bubbles have gotten the team a lot closer because we spend a lot of time together and can't interact with others. We try to do what best we can in the bubble. I am hanging out with Hardik's son mostly; I love kids and love playing with kids."