Justin Langer – KL Rahul ‘hopefully ready to go’ ahead of LSG’s opening IPL 2024 game

Rahul travelled to London last month to consult a specialist after feeling discomfort in his right quadriceps immediately after India’s defeat in Hyderabad at the end of January and has not played since. He linked up with the LSG squad on Wednesday night and Langer suggested he will be ready to face Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur on Sunday afternoon.

“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 in a virtual media conference. “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.”

*ESPNcricinfo learned that Rahul did join his team-mates in training later on Wednesday evening.

Langer did not confirm where Rahul will bat this season, with the off-season acquisition of Devdutt Padikkal raising the possibility that Rahul will slide down from his usual opening spot. That move would also give Rahul the opportunity to pitch a case for selection in India’s middle order ahead of June’s T20 World Cup.

“I haven’t been coaching for two years since I left the Australian cricket team, and for two years I’ve been sleeping very well at night,” Langer said, laughing. “Now, it’s hard to sleep at night because it’s very hard to fit so much talent into 11 positions. It’s a good problem to have. It’s a sweet problem, but we’ll work it out. It’s nice to have so much talent in our squad.

“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.”

Langer will be coaching in the IPL for the first time in his career, and said he has been “blown away” by the talent he has seen in LSG’s pre-season training. “I cannot believe the depth of talent in India,” he said. “I’ve seen some players already, just in our franchise, [and] my mind is blown away by the amount of young talent in this country.”

He also said that he has been “all across” the extensive work that has been done on the pitches at Ekana Stadium, LSG’s home venue, since last year’s IPL. The pitches tended to play slow and low in IPL 2023, with only three team totals above 170 across the seven matches staged in Lucknow, but Langer said there were signs of improvement during the 50-over World Cup.

“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.”

GMT 1815 The story was updated with confirmation that Rahul trained with his team-mates on Wednesday.

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