Colombo: Indian opener KL Rahul on Thursday expressed his pleasure to score a blistering half-century on his comeback from a long injury lay-off during the ongoing second Test of the three-match series against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground.
The 25-year-old, who missed his side's huge 304-run win over the Rangana Herath-led side in the opening Test due to a high fever, had just come out of a four-month long break after he injured his shoulder during the four-match series against Australia.
He then underwent surgery, subsequently missing the 2017 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Champions Trophy.
However, he went on to make a successful comeback on the opening day of second Test against India when he scored his sixth successive half-century (57) and seventh in eight innings.
Reflecting on his return, Rahul said that although not being able to play cricket was tough, he was ecstatic to make a stronger and hungrier comeback.
"Not being able to play cricket was tough, but once I am back I am really happy; and even happier I could start off with a fifty and make some contribution to the team.I have been injured a few times, which is very unfortunate and which is very disappointing. But each time I have come back, I have come back more hungry. It's (injuries) kind of taught me to value my position, value my opportunities each time I go out to the middle. I enjoy it and play it like it is my last game. That's something that has really worked for me," Rahul told the reporters following the first day's play.
Admitting that it was a big challenge for him to remain out of action for so long, Rahul revealed how he utilized the time out of action to analyse other batsmen's game.
"When you are sitting out and when you are seeing your teammates doing well, you do feel very happy but you also feel disappointed that it's not you in that position doing the job for the country. Whatever time I have spent away from the game, I have watched the guys batting. Not just our guys but I watch a lot of cricket, I see the guys and see what they are doing right and I try to bring that into my game," Rahul said.
With his sixth consecutive knock of fifty in Test cricket, Rahul also equaled the mark set by former Indian batsmen Gunduppa Viswanath and Rahul Dravid.
He also became the fastest Indian (18 Tests) to achieve this feat and also became the first India opener to score six consecutive Test half-centuries.
Despite the same, the Indian opener expressed his disappointment over his failure to convert his fifty into three figures.
"Disappointing that I have not been able to convert that, but that will keep me more hungry. Each time I go back to bat, I will want to get more and more runs. I'm learning from my mistakes. Each time I've done a silly mistake and that's how it is," he added.
Earlier, opting to bat first, Rahul also stitched a decent 56-run stand with his opening partner Shikhar Dhawan to provide their side with an initial thrust.
However, Dhawan, who returned to Test cricket with a 190-run knock in the Galle Test, got out LBW off the bowling from Dilruwan Perera at this individual score of 35.
India lost their skipper Virat Kohli cheaply for mere 13 runs as he was brilliantly caught at slips.
Subsequently, Cheteshwar Pujara, who is playing his 50th Test, produced a brilliant batting performance as he went on to score a blistering unbeaten knock of 128 runs, including 10 boundaries and a six.
He was ably supported by Ajinkya Rahane (unbeaten at 103) as the duo stitched a massive 211-run stand for the third wicket to guide the visitors to 344-3 at the close of play.
For Sri Lanka , skipper Rangana Herath and Kusal Perera chipped in with a wicket each.
Lanka, who are trailing by 0-1 in the three-match series following their 304-run defeat in the first Test , will aim to bounce back and try to restrict India to as minimum as possible on Day Two.