Virat Kohli on Thursday said that KL Rahul will be persisted with as the first-choice wicketkeeper in One-Day Internationals. Speaking in a press conference in Auckland ahead of the five-match T20I series against New Zealand, the India captain said that Rahul’s dual role brings great balance to the side.
“In the one-dayers we will have to think of sticking to what we did in Rajkot [making KL Rahul bat in the middle order],” said Kohli. “I think that would work best for us as a side – have another guy at the top and let KL express himself in the middle order. In T20 cricket, the dynamics change a little more. We do have more lower order batsmen who have done well, we have more options for those spots, so KL can probably bat at the top.”
The skipper hinted at the possible exclusion of Rishabh Pant due to Rahul’s role with the gloves, but was firm in his belief that the balance of the team is most important.
“Him [Rahul] doing really well with the gloves has opened up another scenario for us where it gives us a lot more balance in playing an extra batter,” said Kohli. “If he can ‘keep and bat that well then why not have an extra batsman in the playing XI. This is something we are looking to continue with for a while. Not to take anything away from anyone else, this just brings the best balance to the side. I know there will be a lot of talk around what will now happen to some other players, but for us the most important thing is what the team requires and the best balance we can create as a side.”
Kohli also praised Rahul for being a team man and getting more involved in each game after taking the responsibility of wicketkeeping.
“It’s amazing, he is open to accepting any role the team needs him to,” said Kohli. “He is a total team man. You can tell from the way he ‘keeps as well, he is always looking for an opportunity and always looking to make a play. He is not nervous about it. Just the way he collects the ball and runs to the stumps every ball and is in the game all the time. I think he relishes that much more than just being on the field. And it’s showing, he is much more involved in the game. It’s engaging him in the game in the right manner. It’s wonderful to have a guy who can do both things well and bring balance to the team.”
Talking about the upcoming series against New Zealand, Kohli said that Kane Williamson’s side will be difficult to beat in their own backyard.
“New Zealand are very, very strong in their own conditions,” said the India skipper. “You know what they will bring to the table in their own backyard. We are not going to take that for granted. They know their conditions well, they understand the angles of the fields and how the pitches behave. I think they will have a slight home advantage but having said that, we have played here a lot and we won both the series here the last time we played. We are going to take that confidence into this series.
India are set to play five T20Is, three ODIs and two Tests in New Zealand. The last time these two teams played each other was in the semi-final of the ICC World Cup in England last year, in which the Kiwis came out on top.
For Kohli, though, the upcoming series is not about revenge.
“Even if you want to think of revenge you can’t because these guys are so nice,” he said. “Honestly, we get along so well that we can’t think of revenge. It’s all about just being competitive on the field. I even said this at that time, I think they are the one team that has set the right example of how international teams should carry themselves on the field. They obviously want to bring their best in every ball they play and they are intense in their body language, but they’re not nasty and they aren’t doing things that aren’t acceptable on the field.
Kohli added: “They are a quality side and we have a lot of respect for them and I’m sure they feel the same way about us. We were actually happy for them when they qualified for the final. Because when you lose you have to look at the larger picture. It meant a lot to them as a side. So yeah, this series isn’t about revenge at all. It’s just about two quality sides playing cricket. It’s a challenge to beat New Zealand at their home and we’re up for it.”