Most of the premier Indian cricketers were playing in the IPL till the other day, but KL Rahul, the vice-captain of the national white-ball teams, is clear that it will be “a fresh start” for them in Australia when the exchanges begin with the ODIs on Friday. Apart from being Virat Kohli‘s deputy, Rahul is also the team’s first-choice wicketkeeper and one of the premier batsmen, and having shouldered all of those responsibilities while leading the Kings XI Punjab at the IPL, Rahul insists, “I got used to that role and I started enjoying it”.
“I did get a little bit of a feeler with the IPL. I had to play similar roles there as well,” he said of the triple responsibility at a media interaction on Tuesday. “It was challenging and it was new, but I think I got used to it and I started enjoying it. And hopefully it will continue the same way here.
“When you’re playing for your country, you’re 11 of the best guys from your country, and they’re all skilled and they all have a great cricket mind, and have a great understanding by themselves; and there’s an able and passionate leader like Virat (Kohli), who will always be there for the boys – it just makes your job a little bit more easier, and I am looking forward to the new responsibilities.”
Being part of the leadership group, Rahul does have at least one small plan in place: “Maybe take it one or two steps ahead and make sure the team environment is great and the players are hungry and looking forward to win games for the country.”
When he last played ODI cricket, back in early February in New Zealand, Rahul batted at No. 5 and kept wickets – he scored a century in a losing cause in the final game of that series but seemed to have fixed the No. 5 spot for himself.
Rahul on resuming cricket after an extended break and the challenges of life in a bubble
“I haven’t played a lot of 50-over cricket for a continued period of time,” he said. “Though I’ve been part of the Indian team for a few years now, I’ve never got a long run like this. So feels good that I am contributing to the team’s win and playing my role pretty well and I am happy that I can go out and put up consistent performances for my team.”
Rahul, however, wasn’t sure what the team’s plans for him going forward – with two T20 World Cups and an ODI World Cup in the next three years – were.
“It will depend on the formats that I am playing and what the team wants of me and what combination sits better. Obviously the last ODI series we played, I batted at five and kept wickets. So, yeah, that is a role I quite enjoyed and I am happy to do or play whatever roles the team gives me,” he said. “Nothing has been told to me or I don’t think we as a team are thinking that far. Obviously World Cups are very, very important and that is the long vision for every team and every country. But, when it comes to me, we are still taking it one game at a time and if I keep putting up consistent performances with the bat and the gloves, it gives us the option of playing an extra bowler or an extra batter, it just helps the team combination a little more.
“So it’s something I would love to do and if the opportunity presents itself, and I can keep in all the three World Cups, I’d love to do it for my country.”
More to follow…