KL Rahul had a dream ‘debut’ as full-time keeper-batsman with a 52-ball-80 and three dismissals, is “enjoying every responsibility” thrown at him each day at the international level.
Rahul’s batting at No 5 and his ability to also open the innings and keep wickets decently has opened an option for skipper Virat Kohli in case the profligate Rishabh Pant fails to make his chances count in the run-up to the World T20 in Australia.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start. Each day I’ve been thrown different roles and responsibilities and I’m enjoying it for now,” Rahul said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
Batting at four-down, Rahul conjured India to a competitive 340 for six against Australia in the second ODI, which the hosts won by 36 runs to level the series in Rajkot on Friday (January 17).
In the first ODI, Rahul had batted at number three in place of his skipper Kohli, scoring 47 off 61 balls.
Asked about his new experience of batting at crucial No 5 position, Rahul said: “Batting at No 5, I wanted to give myself a few balls, you know what the wicket is doing and Virat said that it’s coming on nicely. A few came off the middle, and I was confident I could score, and everything else faded away. Glad I got some partnerships going and played my role to the best of my abilities.”
About his role as a keeper, Rahul said that he had got positive feedback from left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who is a difficult bowler to pick under lights.
“Kuldeep told me my wicket-keeping was good too. I grew up keeping but I didn’t do it a lot for my first-class team, but in the last few weeks, I did keep for Karnataka (in the National One Dayers and T20s), so I have been in decent wicket-keeping touch. So hopefully, I can keep my spinners and fast bowlers happy,” he said.
Though Rahul is most comfortable to bat as an opener but to deliver as a middle-order batsman, he prepared for the challenge by picking the brains of modern-day great Virat Kohli apart from watching videos of Steve Smith and Kane Williamson.
He is most comfortable to bat as an opener but to deliver as a middle-order batsman, Rahul prepared for the challenge by picking the brains of modern-day great Kohli apart from watching videos of Steve Smith and Kane Williamson.
“I don’t think technically I have practiced anything different. I just spoke a lot more to middle-order batsmen and watched a lot of videos. I spoke a lot to Virat (Kohli) and watched a lot of videos of Ab (De Villiers) and Steve Smith for that matter and how they build their innings,” said Rahul.
“Kane Williamson is somebody I’ve tried to go back and watch some of his videos and see how he build his innings and how they play in certain situations. The only thing I’m trying to learn is how I can use my game and be better at a certain situation.”
The 27-year-old insisted that he has got better at reading the game having played in different positions.
He has batted 17 times as an opener, thrice at number three, four times at number four, twice at number five and once at number 6. The last time he batted at number five was in August 2017 in Sri Lanka where he scored seven.
According to the Karnataka player, he gets to learn about his batting while playing at number 3,4 and 5.
“It is great challenge. I have been in decent form and very pretty confident about my skill, so coming up to every game and having a new responsibility and a new role is also a blessing, I don’t think a lot of batsmen get that. That is how I look at this and I am enjoying my batting,” he said.
“I have always opened the batting so that’s a position I am most comfortable with and I know how to build my innings but I get to learn so much about own self and about my batting and batting as art when I get to bat at 3,4,5.”
Rahul emphasized that he is more than willing to bat in any position.
“It’s a team game and anybody, it’s not just me, anybody who’s playing for the country will be willing to take up anything, any role that the team management gives us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rahul has kept for India U19s at the World Cup and also kept wickets for Karnataka and Indian Premier League.
As regular keeper Rishabh Pant was concussed in the lung-opener at Wankhede, Rahul kept wickets in Mumbai and here. He admitted that keeping was challenging.
“It is (a challenge). Even for me sometimes I couldn’t pick Kuldeep (Yadav) and (Ravindra) Jadeja at the pace he bowls is just pretty difficult, it’s not what I get in my first-class team. I’m just enjoying what’s thrown at me and trying to do the best I can.”
He admitted that it was hard to keep wickets for pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah.
“Jasprit, I have always felt when I used to bat against him (Jasprit) in the IPL, I have always felt like the best place to be against Jasprit is behind the stumps, but now that I have to keep wickets, it is still hard, the way he bowls, swinging the ball both ways, it is a bit of a wobble.
“And for somebody who is not a regular keeper that can be pretty hard. We have seen for guys who are regular keepers, he is still a nightmare to keep,” he said.
India will take on Australia in the three-match series-deciding game in Bengaluru on Sunday (January 19).
(With inputs from agencies)