"In many ways he was getting more out of nets than
anybody else. It was not a put on. It was just that
he was far too focused and serious than anybody
else in the group. He brought this kind of focused
play at nets at the junior level and to this day I
have not seen him approach nets in any other
fashion," said Fazal in open admiration of his
friend from kindergarten days.
His hard work and intense play notwithstanding,
Rahul had a streak of superstition that stayed with
him. He was a great admirer of Sunil Gavaskar and
GR Vishwanath. Early in his career he had read that
Gavaskar always wore something new for every game.
Rahul too decided that he would go with the
"I don't think he could afford it at that stage,"
said Sujit. "But Rahul was a creature of habit. If
he did something different on any day and if,
coincidentally he also scored a lot of runs that
day, Rahul would do that something every time he
had a match.
"The first time he played with something new
fetched him success. He became so superstitious
that from then on he always wore a new item on a
match day. It could be anything - a pin or socks or
handkerchief, a shoelace, anything at all. But
Rahul always wore something new before a match."
Apparently this `wearing something new' was not the
only fetish or superstition he had. Fazal spoke of
a South Zone under-15 cricket camp at
Thiruvananthapuram, formerly Trivandrum, in Kerala.
"Some of us sat under a tree which was quite far
from the pavilion. Rahul too was with us. He was
padded and awaited his turn to bat in that camp
match. When it came, he walked into the ground from
that place under the tree. He went on to get a lot
of runs in that innings. From then on, even if
there was nobody under that tree Rahul would walk
in to bat only from there. Sometimes he used to be
alone under that tree, awaiting the fall of a
wicket. He was so far away from the rest of us in
the pavilion that it used to be funny. But Rahul
was not bothered. His faith in his superstition was
far greater than any fear of ridicule."
But even where superstition was concerned Rahul was
far more intelligent than the others. He made sure
that some of his superstitions worked for him by
imbibing lessons that others missed out on. Sujith
who was Rahul's roommate on many a tour pointed
"Rahul always carried two books with him: 'Tough
times never last, but tough people do' by Robert
Schuller and 'The power of positive thinking' by
Norman Vincent Peale. He was very superstitious
about these two books. Every night, before going to
sleep he would lie in bed and compulsorily read a
few pages from at least the Schuller book and then
tuck it under his pillow before falling asleep. The
Schuller book, in particular, was like a religion
to him and over time he simply adopted that
"I've read these books now and am aware of its
message. But Rahul used to soak into this
philosophy from the Under-15 days," said Sujith.
It is this kind of focus that Rahul brought into
play, whether at camp or at nets, or in the
matches, or even in his choice of superstition that
channeled his energy into becoming a great