Kings XI Punjab opener Lokesh Rahul praised the Indian Premier League (IPL) side's mentor Virender Sehwag, saying the former India star gave every player freedom to express themselves which helped to improve their game.
Led by star spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, Punjab kicked-off the 2018 season on a decent note, winning five of their first six games but faltered in the business end of the league.
"I did go up to Sehwag and spoke to him at different times. He kept his game very simple and that's his advice to all the players -- to go out, trust your gut feeling and enjoy the game with a smile on our face. That's the kind of freedom he has given to everybody, not just me, be it batsmen or bowlers," Rahul told IANS.
"And this is the brand of cricket we want to play as a team, not always keeping in mind the result. We want to be fearless and aggressive. In a tournament like the IPL, sometimes it will work and at other times it won't. But we have to keep going," the right-hand batsman added.
Under their new skipper, the Punjab side managed to win six out of their 14 league games to end their campaign at the penultimate spot in the IPL tally with 12 points.
"Ashwin, I think, has been great. He spends a lot of time with the youngsters. He makes it clear that he expects the team to be fearless and play with instinct," the 26-year-old said.
"He is quite proactive on the field, and has given players including me a lot of freedom to express myself on the field and give my best," he added.
The Karnataka batsman also praised swashbuckling batsman Chris Gayle and said he is the most destructive T20 opener in the world.
"He is the most destructive T20 opener in the world. It is a privilege to open the batting with him and it makes my life so much easier," Rahul said.
Commenting about the Red Bull campus cricket, a university level competition which helped him grow as a cricketer, Rahul said: "Red Bull Campus Cricket was a game changer for me. It gave me the platform to express myself and grow as a cricketer. Due to injuries I was dropped from the state side and that time in 2013, Red Bull Campus Cricket played a prominent role in my development."
"I was thrilled to have had a good tournament and then get selected for Karnataka in Ranji. I have never looked back since," he added.
He said that Red Bull campus cricket also provides young cricketers a stage to express themselves, and provides a fair idea of the profession as they go higher up.
(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)