Rahul Dravid had narrated how he took to wicket-keeping for the Indian cricket team.

“I was asked, ‘Will you try?’ The last time I had done any sort of wicketkeeping, it was at the age of 15. I had given up wicketkeeping after that. But then, I was not that good a wicketkeeper. I’ll be very honest. I remember, we hired a wicket-keeping coach, a friend of John Wright’s for a series and two-three more sessions for me.”

Dravid kept in 73 ODIs for India, claiming 71 catches and effecting 13 stumpings. He ended with the fourth most number of scalps among Indian wicket-keepers in ODIs, a list well-led by the mercurial MS Dhoni.

This is a new Indian team. There’s a new tale. There is a new Rahul. The role, interestingly, is similar. 

KL Rahul

Rishabh Pant was hit by a Pat Cummins bouncer in the 1st One-Day International played in Mumbai on January 14. The youngster suffered a concussion and KL Rahul, India’s third-choice opener after Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, had to keep wickets. He did fairly well. A run-of-the-mill situation created a favorable solution to a long-standing woe.

Pant was forced out of the 2nd ODI – he had not recovered fully from the concussion. Rahul continued to function smoothly behind the stumps and also chipped in with a brisk 80 off just 52 balls, a knock that pushed India’s total to 340. He was rightfully given the Man of the Match award as India pocketed the game.

This make-shifting, however, opened up a new chapter. India felt the possibility of playing a wicket-keeper who is also a proper batsman once again. Since the World Cup, Dhoni has been absent and India has been looking for a wicket-keeper who can also lend stability to the middle-order. Rahul fits the bill while Rishabh Pant still displays the rush-of-blood time and again.  

He’s got sound technique, all the shots in the book and has worked on his temperament. Just the way he looks at the angle of his bat before he puts it down to face every ball shows how much he’s willing to work to make sure he gets it right. Behind the wicket too, he’s no pushover. He effected a smart stumping of Aaron Finch in the second ODI, further underlining his credentials.

He’s kept wickets for his IPL side Kings XI Punjab in the absence of Nicholas Pooran and recently, he kept for Karnataka in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy without any blemishes.

“It is an absolute option. You got to see where your strength is. If tomorrow there are a couple of guys in the middle order who are firing with unbelievable innings in the IPL. IPL will be a good judging ground. If you feel a guy who can multitask can be used at the top because there’s some firepower at the back who are doing extremely well, then why not,” head coach Ravi Shastri had said in a recent interview.

KL Rahul

With Rahul opening new avenues for the Men in Blue in the limited-overs format, it means that India now has the flexibility to play an additional proper batsman or even an extra-allrounder, accommodating either Manish Pander or Hardik Pandya according to the need of the hour. It adds to the balance of the side, while also helping the batting depth.

“It definitely allows us to play extra batsmen which strengthen our batting massively. 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,” captain Virat Kohli stressed on exactly that after India won the three-match ODI series against Australia.

With KL Rahul playing at No. 4 or No.5 (as demanded by the situation), it acts as an elixir to India’s long-standing problem of stability. At 27, he’s at the peak of his powers and an extended run will only help his confidence. Some players thrive under pressure, and Rahul looks to be in that mold. 

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