K.L. Rahul — soldiering on against challenges

Takes on any role assigned to him with aplomb and comes out smiling

Seldom would a cricketer have faced as many challenges as K.L. Rahul has over the last six months.

From losing his place in the Test squad to being shuffled in the batting order in white-ball formats to being stand-in wicketkeeper, Rahul has had to combat various situations.

On Friday, his role was to keep wickets in the absence of Rishabh Pant and bat at No. 5 in India’s must-win ODI.

And, Rahul got the job done as nonchalantly as his more famous namesake from Karnataka (Dravid) used to in his heyday. He first ensured India didn’t collapse like it did in Mumbai three days ago and then unleashed himself on the Aussie pacers.

The result was a 52-ball 80 that propelled India to 340 for six.

In the last couple of years, with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan on song in the openers’ slot, Rahul realised he had to create a niche for himself in the middle-order.

After his knock at the SCA Stadium, Rahul explained he had adopted a watch-and-improve approach to do justice to his role in the middle-order.

“I don’t think technically I’ve practised anything different. I just spoke to some middle-order batsmen and watched a lot of videos. I spoke a lot to Virat and watched a lot of videos of AB (de Villiers) and Steve [Smith], and how they build their innings. Kane [Williamson] is also somebody I’ve tried to go back and watch,” Rahul said.

“I’m trying to learn how to use my game and be better in a situation. My reading of the game’s gotten a lot better now that I’ve played in different positions and batting has become a lot more enjoyable,” he said.

His batting rubbed off on his skills with the other pair of gloves. Having been a ’keeper during his formative years, Rahul is no stranger to the job. He has also kept wickets in the IPL.

A nightmare

His work behind the wickets on Friday was far from that of a stand-in ’keeper. Not only did he keep a clean slate in terms of byes but also effected a brilliant stumping to dismiss Australia captain Aaron Finch.

“We have seen for guys who are regular ’keepers, Jasprit (Bumrah) is still a nightmare to keep to, but I am enjoying it,” he said.

“Sometimes I couldn’t pick Kuldeep, and Jadeja, at the pace he bowls, is just pretty difficult, it’s not what I get in my First Class team.”

India will be hoping that Rahul’s razzmatazz continues on Sunday in Bengaluru, his hometown.

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