Promoted as India’s white-ball vice-captain to face Australia in Rohit Sharma’s absence, KL Rahul on Wednesday said he would be more than happy to keep wickets at the biggest stage consistently if given an opportunity.
Rahul has now pipped specialist wicketkeepers Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson as the No 1 gloveman in the limited-overs format. And, while the management has not spoken to him about it, he would gladly perform the role at the upcoming three ICC events – two back-to-back T20 World Cups followed by the marquee ODI World Cup – are scheduled in the next three years.
The 28-year-old’s keeping does provide the team the option of having an extra batsman or bowler.
“It helps the team combination a little more and it’s something I would love to do...if the opportunity presents itself and I can keep in three World Cups, I would love to do it for my country,” Rahul said in an interaction ahead of the limited-overs series against Australia starting November 27.
“Nothing has been told to me and we are not thinking that far as a team. Obviously, World Cups are important and that is a long-term vision for every team and country,” he said.
“I think for me, we are just taking one game at a time. So if I put up consistent performances with bat and gloves, it gives us an option of playing an extra bowler or an extra batter,” said the stylish Karnataka batsman.
In the ODIs, Rahul has been batting at No 5 and has opened in the T20 Internationals, and he admitted that his position in the line-up will depend on formats.
“What the team wants from me and what combination sits better,” said Rahul.
“Obviously, the last ODI series (against New Zealand) that we played, I batted at no 5, it’s a role that I have enjoyed and (I am) happy to play whatever role the team gives me.”
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s keeping was in a different league and the way he guided spinners went a long way in India’s white-ball success. For Rahul too, the focus is on communicating as well as possible with the bowlers.
“Look obviously, nobody can fill MS Dhoni’s place. He has shown us the way and how wicketkeeper-batsman role is performed.
“With Kuldeep, Yuzi and Jaddu, we have a decent friendship and obviously I will go and give them a feedback as to what is a better length if they are doing something wrong and anybody in wicketkeeper’s role will have that responsibility,” he said.
Rahul loved the role of an ODI keeper against New Zealand and hopes to continue with the good work.
“I did one series in New Zealand and quite enjoyed it and hopefully I can be better at reading the game and give bowlers and captains some good feedback for the bowlers and the captain.”
Learning from the IPL
With Rohit not a part of the white-ball squads in Australia due to his injury, Rahul has been promoted as deputy to Virat Kohli. In New Zealand too, Rahul got a brief go at leading the side when Kohli was rested and Rohit got injured during a match. Of course, in the Indian Premier League, he was the captain of Kings XI Punjab during the 2020 season and it proved to be a rollercoaster for his side.
But the learning experience is something that should hold him in good stead, especially if India sees him as a possible captain in the future.
Captaining and keeping wickets apart from opening the batting for KXIP has given him an idea of what he can expect in terms of pressure.
“I did get a little bit of a feel with the IPL. I had to play a similar role there. It was challenging, new, got used to the role and started enjoying it.
“Yeah, hopefully, I will continue the same over here. When you are playing for the country, you have 11 of the best-skilled guys, great cricket minds all by themselves and an able and passionate leader like Virat. You look forward to a new responsibility.”
The IPL captaincy, he said, has also taught him how to compartmentalise and stay in the moment.
“Something, I learnt from the IPL is how to stay in the moment. While batting, think as a batter and see how I can win the game as batter. As a keeper, in the last 3-4 seconds, when the bowler is running in, you do not think as a leader. This is important going ahead for me.”
The 14-day quarantine here has been challenging, Rahul admitted, and he felt a lot better when he got together with his teammates for training.
“Challenge has been being in the room alone. The time you practice, meet teammates, is the best time in the day. You have fun together. Challenge is mostly when you are back in the room and all alone.”
Rahul’s batting form
Known for his stylish batting, Rahul said that even if he has to score at a high strike-rate of 160 to 170, he can do it minus the blitzkrieg. His comment during the IPL that he felt strike rate was overrated ruffled a few feathers in the cricket community but Rahul stuck to his guns about adapting to situations he finds himself in.
“I wouldn’t call my batting power-hitting, that’s something I honestly feel like I have not been able to do or not what I am blessed with,” Rahul said.
“I am blessed with certain skills and I try and play the role I feel the team requires me to play at that particular moment. If that means scoring runs at 160-170 strike rate, I try to do that to the best of my ability and if it’s the other way around, I will try to do that,” he added.
Having not played 50-over cricket regularly for India, save for the past one year, Rahul is happy that he is in a situation where he has been in good form and getting an extended run in the side.
“....I have never got a long run like this. So yeah, it feels good that I am contributing to team’s win and playing my role pretty well. Happy that I can put up consistent performances.
“I have actually forgotten the last innings I played and scored a hundred in New Zealand (century in Mount Mangnui in February),” Rahul said in jest adding that it’s a fresh start for everybody.
Talking about the Australian team, Rahul was all praise for Marnus Labuschagne but refused to call him an unknown entity.
“...I don’t think he is unknown anymore. He is in the top 5 and he has been getting a lot of runs in the last 12-15 months or before the COVID in the games that he played. He has been really consistent for his side.
“We have watched how Marnus played and fingers crossed hopefully, he won’t score that many runs against us. We will have a plan set, we have a top-quality bowling attack so it will be a good challenge for him and our bowlers as well.”
Watch his interaction with media here: