Colombo: Ishan Kishan has usually been India’s go-to wicketkeeper for limited-overs matches this year but it is clear he cannot take his place for granted with KL Rahul hitting top form after returning from injury at the Asia Cup.
Kishan appeared to be first-choice for the gloves, not just because he has four fifties in his last five one-day knocks but also for the left-handed variety that he brings in a batting lineup dominated by right-handers.
Rahul’s first two knocks since returning from a thigh injury, however, have ensured he remains in contention, creating the “good headache” that chief selector Ajit Agarkar had anticipated after picking both in the World Cup squad.
Rahul had only five minutes to prepare for the blockbuster Asia Cup match against Pakistan after Shreyas Iyer was a last-minute withdrawal due to a back spasm.
But in his first outing since his coming back from injury he smashed an unbeaten 111 and forged a brilliant stand with fellow centurion Virat Kohli to set up India’s comprehensive victory against their arch-rivals.
The elegant right-hander featured in another crucial partnership, this time with Kishan, in Tuesday’s low-scoring contest against hosts Sri Lanka, which India won by 41 runs.
Rahul also kept wicket for the majority of the Pakistan innings and throughout the Sri Lankan innings.
“I have been keeping wicket for a long time, more than two years now actually,” Rahul told reporters, adding that he was comfortable with the dual role.
“So it’s not new for me, and the team management has told me that this would be my role in the squad - to play in the middle order and keep wicket.” Primarily a versatile batter comfortable in any position in the top and middle order, Rahul said he had honed his keeping skills during his rehabilitation from injury.
“During my recovery, I worked on both aspects,” the 31-year-old said.
“Earlier, I’d work mostly on my batting. But this time I had enough time to work on my keeping.
“Hopefully I can do both the roles well.” India, who have reached the Asia Cup final, will begin their bid for a third ODI World Cup title against Australia in Chennai on October 8.