May 17, 2019 8:15:20 pm
He has not said it in as many words but reserve opener KL Rahul dropped enough hints that he could seamlessly settle into the key number four position, a conundrum the Indian team is carrying into the World Cup.
Despite much debate and discussion around the batting position, who would bat at number four — Vijay Shankar or Rahul — remains a riddle.
“The selectors have made it clear. I am part of the team and will go with whatever the team decides when we get there,” Rahul PTI in an interview when asked specifically about batting at number four.
Head coach Ravi Shastri said the combinations would entirely depend on the prevailing conditions in England.
All that could go wrong, went wrong for the stylish opener in December-January when runs deserted him in the Test series in Australia before he and his teammate Hardik Pandya suffered the ignominy of being called from the tour in the wake of their outrageous comments on women during a TV show.
The 27-year-old even began to doubt himself as a person but the fighter in him did not give up. Suspended from the national team, Rahul was asked play for India A in the home series against England Lions and he was back amongst the runs.
In the following T20s against Australia, he scored morale boosting 50 and 47 and carried that form into the IPL, where he ended up as the second-highest run getter with 593 runs at 53.90.
“Form is an overrated word,” said Rahul who goes into his maiden World Cup at the top of his game, having overcome the controversy-laden six months of his career.
“The last couple of months have been good with the bat. Playing the series against England Lions gave me time to focus on my skill, then did well against T20s against Australia and then the IPL. I am feeling pretty confident,” Rahul said.
Self-doubts can creep in when one endures a dismal tour like Rahul had in Australia but he did not over think about his game.
“I realised there was no problem with my skills. Form is a very over-rated word but yes not performing well in Australia is hard on any player. Everyone wants to perform. I just took it in my stride and took it as part of the journey. I am happy with where I am at right now.”
He discussed what went wrong Down Under with India A coach Rahul Dravid during the England Lions series and both felt no drastic changes were needed in his technique.
“I have not really changed much. Every player goes through rough patches. Technically, I am trying to keep my batting as simple as I can. If you are hitting the ball well, your form, your technique looks good and when you are not, everything about your game looks bad. That is how it goes. Can’t really sit and break your head over it and stay as positive as possible.”
He was not consistent during the long tour of England last year but did manage to come up with special performances, including an unbeaten 101 in the Manchester T20 International and 149 in the second innings at The Oval Test. But that was in the past, he said.
“I just know what to expect in England. We were there around this time last year so we know what the conditions will be like. Nobody takes confidence from the last tour and how many runs you scored, you start fresh but yes we are better prepared.”
After almost two months of non-stop T20 cricket, will switching to ODI cricket be tough?
“Easier said than done but as players you try to keep it as simple as you can. Not much changes (between formats), it still is a game of bat and ball and you need to play the situation.
“T20 may be fast but still you never plan for a T20. The same way you don’t plan for the other formats. You just go out there and asses the conditions and play a role that suits your team best,” said Rahul, adding that he learnt immensely by batting alongside Chris Gayle for Kings XI Punjab.
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