The team gear will change. So will the format. His role, too, will be different. Still, K.L. Rahul will continue to be under the scanner for India’s three-match ODI series versus Australia, starting at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday.
From leading the team in Rohit Sharma’s absence in India’s last ODI in 2022 to being relieved of vice-captaincy duties across all formats and even losing his place in the Test side, Rahul has had a topsy-turvy first quarter of 2023
Despite being dropped as Test opener midway through the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, Rahul remains a vital cog for India when it comes to the ODI set-up; especially in a World Cup year, with Rishabh Pant all but ruled out of the marquee event on home soil.
In fact, ever since he started keeping wickets and batting in the middle-order, Rahul has flourished as an ODI cricketer. His average of 55.25 with the willow in 15 ODIs he has kept so far is better than his career average of 44.52 in 51 ODIs. Considering that he has handled wicketkeeping duties in the last two ODI series he featured — in Bangladesh and agaist Sri Lanka at home — it appears that the team management has identified him as the numero uno choice for the pivotal role till the World Cup.
Dilip, the fielding coach, reaffirmed the management’s belief in Rahul’s abilities. “We all know that K.L. Rahul is a wonderful player. He has a proven record in the ODIs in the middle order. He brings a lot of balance to the team,” Dilip said.
“He is not someone who has picked up the gloves just now, he has been doing it from a younger age. So it’s not much difficult to work on his wicketkeeping skills apart from refining a few aspects.”
While he keeps wickets in ODIs, Rahul plays as a specialist batter in the other two formats. Similarly, Ishan Kishan has been juggling between fielding in the outfield and wicketkeeping across different formats.
Dilip, in his first media interaction, explained the adjustments he has to make to plan the players’ fielding skill-set regimen.
“In the last World Cup, we had three wicketkeepers who played. It’s been a trend. If you look at the wicketkeepers, they are coming up in line, they are fantastic batters too. It adds up to the balance,” he said.
“My responsibility becomes not only to work on their wicketkeeping skills but work on their fielding skills too so that they are well equipped for whatever role is required by the team.”