With a fluent knock of 108, which took India to a position of strength after they had lost early wickets in their second warm-up match against Bangladesh, KL Rahul seems to be in firm contention to hold India’s highly contentious No.4 slot at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
Successive failures by the opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma presented another opportunity for Rahul to put himself as the front-runner for the position, and he made the most of it with a sublime century that led to skipper Virat Kohli to call his knock the “biggest positive” to come out of India’s warm-up gig.
“The biggest positive to come out of this game was the way KL batted at four,” Kohli said after the outing in Cardiff. “All the other people know their role pretty well, so it was important that KL gets runs because he is such a sound player. He can get the scoreboard ticking and you saw that – a great example of the skill-set that he has.”
Before Rahul, Tamil Nadu all-rounder Vijay Shankar was believed to be in contention for the position, as indicated by MSK Prasad, the chairman of the selectors. Vijay, who had missed the first warm-up match, against New Zealand, due to injury, recovered quickly to feature in the game against Bangladesh. However, he could manage just two runs and finished wicket-less in his six overs.
India had also tried out several other options at the position, including Ajinkya Rahane and Ambati Rayudu. Rahul, who was earlier nominated as India’s reserve opener in the tournament by Prasad, finished as the second-highest run-scorer in the Indian Premier League last month, and sounded confident and ready to accept the new challenge. “It is a team game, and you need to be flexible and be ready to bat wherever, or as a player you need to be ready to take up whatever role is given to you,” he said. “Every batsman who has played at this level knows how to handle pressure and knows how to handle the roles and responsibilities given to him.”
The Karnataka batsman, who spent a chunk of time outside the team earlier this year, due to a code of conduct breach, believed that the break gave him an opportunity to reflect on his cricket. “I tried to make the best use of it [the time off]. I felt like there were a few things with my batting and technique I needed to fix,” he said.
“I worked with my coach back home in Bangalore, and the India A games gave me a little time with Rahul Dravid to just speak to him about mental preparation and how to handle pressure and how to handle low confidence and low form. The best way to get back to scoring runs is to find that form in the middle, and I got that opportunity. So from there, I just carried on and I knew that my batting was fine and I was very hungry to come back and score runs for whatever teams I played.”