India skipper Virat Kohli said on Sunday that he will persist with KL Rahul as wicketkeeper to lend balance to his side’s batting as they head for a tour of New Zealand.
India charged to a seven-wicket victory over Australia in Bangalore to clinch the three-match one-day international series 2-1.
Rahul, 27, donned the keeping gloves in the first game – won by Australia – after regular stumper Rishabh Pant suffered a concussion while batting, and was retained for the job in the two subsequent wins.
India begin their Kiwi tour on January 24 with five Twenty20 matches and Kohli believes Rahul’s dual role will boost their batting.
“It definitely allows us to play an extra batsmen which strengthens our batting massively,” Kohli told reporters.
“That is a very important factor as far as the team balance is concerned. If you look at the 2003 World Cup where Rahul [Dravid] bhai started keeping, the balance became different because you could play an extra batter and guys at the top could really play positive cricket.”
Rahul, a specialist opener, batted at number three in the first ODI, dropped down to five in the second match and returned to open the innings in the final game.
His 80 off 52 balls was key to India posting 340 in the second match and also made 47 in a losing cause in Mumbai.
“He is very open to playing anywhere because he is a proper batsman and can do you good in any format and any position in the game,” said Kohli.
“He won’t go slam bang from ball one but he can do what he did in Rajkot just playing good cricketing shots. So I think solid game plan and understanding of his game is helping (him).”
Pant, who has been slammed by critics for not being consistent as a batsman and with the gloves, is part of India’s T20 squad but Kohli insists India will persist with Rahul for a bit.
“He has come in to that slot and has done well, so we will have to persist with that,” said Kohli.
“You can’t chop and change immediately and create confusion within the group. So we are playing very well unchanged and we did the job again, two back to back wins.”
India leave on Monday for New Zealand, where they will also play three ODIs and three Test matches.