Hailing KL Rahul’s ability to perform any given role in limited overs cricket, India skipper Virat Kohli more or less confirmed that the Karnataka batsman would continue to keep wickets at least in the first couple of T20Is in New Zealand. Rahul was given the job of keeping the wickets after designated wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant was concussed after being hit on the head in the first ODI against Australia. Rahul, who regularly keeps for Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, kept in all three ODIs and did a commendable job behind the stumps.
“It definitely allows us to play an extra batsmen which strengthens our batting massively,” Kohli told reporters after India beat Australia by 7 wickets in the third ODI at Bengaluru to take the three-match series 2-1.
Rishabh Pant was fit to play in the 3rd ODI and he was even seen going through full-fledged drill ahead of the start of the series but India chose to persist with Rahul. India begin their Kiwi tour on January 24 with five Twenty20 matches and Kohli believes Rahul’s dual role will boost their batting.
“We have to persist with it as he has done well. We have to see whether it works, you cannot chop and change. I do not see why we should change this playing XI,” Kohli said.
Kohli also highlighted that India had done this before with Rahul Dravid in the 2003 ODI World Cup in South Africa.
“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 (brother) 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.
(With agency inputs)