KL Rahul after his century against New Zealand in the third ODI
KL Rahul after his century against New Zealand in the third ODI Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Fortunes have come a full circle for KL Rahul, it seems. It was around the same time last year when the talented Indian batsman was sulking at his Bengaluru home – both he and Hardik Pandya being branded as the bad boys of Indian cricket after their so-called misogynist remarks in the TV chat show ‘Koffee with Karan.’

Not only did the duo suffer the ignominy of being sent back from Australia for their indiscretion, financial penalties followed while they were pilloried for failing to live up to the billing of being role models. A year on, Rahul has evolved to become the new ‘Mr 360 degrees’ of cricket – in the words of former international and TV pundit Sanjay Manjrekar.

It was an epithet reserved for a certain AB De Villiers of South Africa, but Rahul reminded all him with a reverse scoop off Jimmy Neesham at the first one-dayer against New Zealand at Hamilton which sailed for six – on his way to a sublime 88 off 64 deliveries. Rahul, who had been in the form of his life in the ongoing New Zealand tour, seem to be simply going from strength to strength and capped his consistent form with his fourth ODI century on Tuesday.

Tauranga: India's KL Rahul celebrates his 100 runs during the One Day cricket international between India and New Zealand at Bay Oval in Tauranga, New Zealand, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. AP/PTI(AP2_11_2020_000034B)
Rahul is in sparkling form

“Only K.L. Rahul can make 360 degrees batting look orthodox and classical,” Manjrekar wrote on Twitter.

There is no doubt that the job of multi-tasking – which saw him keeping the wickets in New Zealand – has made him confident about his place in the squad and this has also rubbed off on his batting. Not that there was much of a doubt about Rahul’s potential, but it was often his focus and the technique against the bouncing ball overseas, which had raised questions in the past.

India may have scuccumbed to a rare series defeat to New Zealand in the one-dayers – coming at the back of their 5-0 sweep of the T20s – but Rahul certainly gave skipper Virat Kohli a lot of reasons to cheer in the year of World T20. The 27-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman finished as the top scorer for India in the T20s and the second highest scorer for the visitors in the one-day series.

In the one-day series, Rahul scored an aggregate of 204 runs with an average of 102 with 88 not out, four and 112 – his fourth ODI century coming in the final match today. Shreyas Iyer topped the tale with 217 runs at 72.33. The T20 series saw Rahul scoring 224 runs at an average of 56, with his form keeping exciting young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant out of the team for both formats.

Rahul and Yuzvendra Chahal celebrate the dismissal of New Zealand’s Martin Gutpill at the Bay Oval
Rahul and Yuzvendra Chahal celebrate the dismissal of New Zealand’s Martin Gutpill at the Bay Oval Image Credit: AFP

What’s more, his willingness to bat at any position – he opened the innings in the T20s and then came at No. 5 in the 50-over format – seemed to have consolidated his position in the white ball format like never before.

“Him doing well with the gloves has really opened up a scenario for us where it gives us a lot more balance in playing an extra batsman,” Kohli told reporters last month.

It’s most heartening to see Rahul eventually living up to the promise of initial years. With Kings XI Punjab naming him as their captain for the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL), the additional responsibility may just make the understated Rahul into one of the pivotal figures of Indian cricket.