Indian middle-order batter KL Rahul on Wednesday opened up on outside noise and social media scrutiny following a Test comeback hundred against South Africa in Centurion. Rahul was lauded for his efforts in tough batting conditions in the first innings, notching his eighth Test century (101 in 137 balls, with 14 fours and four sixes) in a total of just 245.
Virat Kohli's 38 was the next best for the tourists, who were bowled out in the first session of day two. In reply, the Proteas have snuck to a first-innings lead, off the back of a storming hundred from Dean Elgar (140*), who intends to finish his Test career on a high note. SA was 256/5 at the end of day two, leading by 11 runs.
"Social media is a pressure" - KL Rahul
Speaking after play on day two Rahul responded to questions regarding criticism of his game, most notably from the general public, who hit out at the batter for his lack of form and aggression at times, particularly in shorter formats.
"As a person, as a cricketer, as an individual, you are challenged each day, each moment. Social media is a pressure," said KL as quoted by ICC.
"Today I have scored a hundred so people are singing praises. Three, or four months ago, everybody was abusing me. It is part of the game, but I cannot say it does not affect you. It does," he said.
"The sooner you realise that staying away from it is good for your game and your mindset the better it is," he concluded his point.
Rahul moved things along for the tourists, striking at 73.72 as the team travelled at 3.62 runs per over, a counter to the trying conditions and the rain that hovered throughout the two opening days.
Rahul admits it was a good time to apply things he has worked on in the background during spells away from the middle, particularly when injured for the middle part of 2023.
"Each person has to find their way, and for me, when I was injured and was away from the game for such a long time, I worked on myself," said KL.
"I tried to go back to the person that I am and worked on how I do not change myself by getting affected by these things. It is difficult to remain true to yourself and true to your personality with so much happening. It is the hardest thing."
"You have your personality, personality traits, characteristics. When you play international cricket, they all get challenged. It does affect each person. And anyone who says that does not affect them at all, I am sure is lying."
"You can perform or you can be in a better mindset if you slightly know where to draw the line. Nobody is that great that they can completely avoid what has been said and the criticism they are getting," he concluded.
South Africa resumed on day three 11 runs ahead with five wickets in hand, with Elgar joined by all-rounder Marco Jansen (3*) at the other end.
Captain Temba Bavuma is yet to bat, and there are doubts about his participation after succumbing to a hamstring injury sustained in the field.
The soon-to-retire Elgar took over captaincy duty in the meantime, and was quick to acknowledge Tony de Zorzi's vital contribution of 28 in a stand of 93 with him against a world-class attack, also outlining his intentions as he bowed out.
"We just focus on the first session and take it from there" - KL Rahul
On the other side, Rahul believes his team can spoil the first Test of Elgar's farewell if the bowlers can hit their lines early. (We are) not going to think too far (ahead). Focus on the first session tomorrow," said KL.
"I think it is important to come and bowl in the right areas. We saw there is still a bit of help in the wicket. Try and get them out as soon as possible, and then we put some runs on board."
"We just focus on the first session and take it from there and we will have to see how the wicket plays as well. It is getting easier to bat on, so it is important firstly to get those five wickets that are left and then put the big runs on board and then see where the game is," he concluded.