Langer hopeful KL Rahul will be ready to go for LSG's season opener

IPL 2024

'If KL captains LSG to an IPL victory, it means he would've played well himself '

Lucknow Super Giants head coach Justin Langer is hopeful that captain KL Rahul will be available for the team's IPL 2024 opener against Rajasthan Royals this Sunday (March 24). Rahul missed the final four Tests of the recently-concluded Test series against England with a recurrence of a quadriceps injury and travelled to London to meet a specialist.

"KL was supposed to be here this afternoon to play in the practice game tonight, but unfortunately, he's had a hold-up on the aeroplane," Langer said on Wednesday (March 20) "He'll be at the ground later on tonight, so he'll probably arrive just after the start of the day's play.

"He'll be around for the first time to be with the boys and to be with the team. Everyone's looking forward to seeing him. We know he has worked very hard to tick off all his return-to-play protocols. He's worked very hard. He's been practising, he's been hitting lots of balls. He's hopefully ready to go. It's going to be nice to have the captain with us."

Rahul, an Orange Cap winner in 2020, faces an interesting season with a potential spot in the T20 World Cup squad waiting at the end of it. While a position at the top of the batting order in India's T20I team may be out of his reach with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill and Ruturaj Gaikwad currently ahead in the pecking order, Rahul could make a case for himself as a middle-order keeper-bat, a role he played with great aplomb in his breakthrough 2016 IPL season with Royal Challengers Bengaluru. Such a move would not leave LSG short-changed with trade acquisition and Rahul's Karnataka teammate Devdutt Padikkal capable of slotting in as an opener.

Langer kept LSG's batting order plans close to his chest but said that Rahul's World Cup prospects would increase if the team went on to have great season. "My view - and I've said this for probably 25 years - [is that] if the team does well, then everyone gets rewarded. And therefore, from KL's point of view, if he captains the Lucknow Super Giants to an IPL victory, it means he would've played well himself and he would've captained very well, and he would've wicket-kept very well.

"If we have team success, everyone will be rewarded. That'll be the message for all the players, including Bishi [Ravi Bishnoi] and KL, and there's a few others who will be vying for T20 World Cup spots. That's all part of the game we play. The more they concentrate on playing well for Lucknow the more their chances of being selected will increase.

"It's a sweet problem, but we'll work it out. It's nice to have so much talent in our squad."

The first-time coach at the IPL also reckoned that the pitches at the Ekana Stadium would be better for batting than they had been in the previous season when only three of the seven games there saw scores in excess of 170.

"We've done a lot of work here on the pitches. I've been all across it. They've changed the water that goes into the pitches. They've also changed some of the soil. At the end of last season, they changed the soil on the pitches, and we saw some good results in the World Cup. They played a few games here. There were some high scoring games. I think South Africa vs Australia was a very high-scoring game, right?

"We've trained here now. We had a practice game last night under lights, and we've had two very good training sessions on the middle wickets, and the pitches were excellent - very, very good... they recognised that we needed to improve the pitches from last year, so we're all very hopeful that we see excellent pitches. From what I've seen so far, though, we have nothing to worry about."