Centurion: With K L Rahul all but certain to be India’s wicketkeeper in Test cricket for the first time, captain Rohit Sharma said on the eve of the series opener that the right-handed batter is himself keen on taking the role which he does with aplomb in ODIs.
With Ishan Kishan pulling out of the series due to personal reasons and Rishabh Pant recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident last year, a window has opened for Rahul to reclaim his spot in the Test team in the form of a wicketkeeper who bats in the middle-order.
On Sunday, head coach Rahul Dravid had called this as an exciting challenge for his namesake.
“Every cricketer has to go through some kind of transformation or take a different role in their career. There are hardly a few cricketers who have stuck to the same position and played that role throughout their careers in that position. I felt the way he kept in the World Cup; it was quite pleasing. He is really working hard and he himself is quite keen to take up that role as well.”
“It gives us an option to play a solid batter at five/six/seven in the middle order. He’s got the experience of playing here, got a hundred last time, although he opened the innings there and this time around, he will be in the middle-order. Even I think that the position he bats in the middle-order in ODIs, we have seen that he does most of the things right,” said Rohit in the pre-match press conference.
Success in ODIs
Rahul had scored a century as an opener in India’s last Test at Centurion in 2021, which they won. But this time, he will be donning the gloves for only the second time in first-class cricket and bat in the middle-order, a role which has given him success in ODIs, but is a different ball game in Test cricket.
“He bats and understands the game really well and is an experienced player. So, he exactly knows what is required at different stages of the game, which gives us a solid balance. But I am not sure how long he wants to keep but as of now, he’s quite keen to take that role,” added Rohit.
With Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj being certainties for the fast-bowling slots in the playing eleven, there will be a toss-up between Mukesh Kumar and Prasidh Krishna for the third pacer’s slot in Mohammed Shami’s absence. Rohit admitted that India are yet to finalise their decision on the third pacer role, citing the different skillsets they possess.
“It is a very tough call to pick between Prasidh and Mukesh as we have to see what the team needs and how would the pitch play. I spoke to Rahul (Dravid) bhai and KL (Rahul), who got a hundred here last time, over how things were here when we played last time, like how the wicket played on day one, two, three and so on. Upon the feedback, there are a lot of permutations running in the mind over what to do and what not to do.”
“Both are different bowlers — Prasidh is a bit tall and is a hit-the-deck bowler and can extract a lot from the pitch. On the other hand, what we have seen of Mukesh in last six to eight months, he’s been very impressive. It all depends on how the wicket will play and what we want, as we know what to expect from Siraj and Bumrah.”
“Now the most important thing is, what kind of bowler we need from either Mukesh or Prasidh — a seam or swing bowler and one who bowls back of the length deliveries. The discussion is still ongoing, 75 per cent of decision-making is done. Only 25 per cent decision-making is left and due to rainy weather, we couldn’t go to see the wicket. We will decide once we have a meeting in the evening.”
Lot of encouragement
Rohit has not played any game since India’s loss to Australia in the ODI World Cup final more than a month ago in Ahmedabad. The right-handed opener admitted it was tough to move from the heartbreak of the final, but is now ready to face future challenges, both as a captain and batter.
“If you see up until the final, the way we played in the World Cup, you expect to go one inch further. But unfortunately, we couldn’t do it and that was the hard part for all of us because all the years, we worked really hard for this. You all saw how we managed to play in the first ten games. There are certain things we didn’t do well in the final, which cost us the game.”
“But till then, we couldn’t point out that we didn’t do this or that right. It is hard (to move on) after a loss like that. But there’s so much happening in life and cricket that you got to find the strength to move on from that and it took time, for me as well, to come out from that.”
“But you got to move forward, and we got a lot of encouragement from the outside world. That motivated me personally to get up and start doing my job again. As a batter, I am batting as well as I could. Whatever is in front of me, I’ll look forward to playing whatever is there ahead,” he concluded.