Ranji Trophy 2018-19: P. Rahul, Kerala's find of the season

P. Rahul, the left-handed opening batsman has been one of the most consistent players of the Kerala team this season.

P. Rahul has been one of the most consistent performers for Kerala this season.   -  S. Mahinsha

In the quarterfinals against Gujarat, P. Rahul took the catch of Arzan Nagwaswalla, which helped Kerala storm into the semifinal of the Ranji Trophy for the first time. But Rahul’s contribution to the team has been much more.

The left-handed opener has been one of the team's most consistent batsmen. In the five matches he has played, Rahul has hammered a century and two fifties. In the tournament so far, he has amassed 361 runs at an average of 40.11, only behind Sachin Baby and Jalaj Saxena.

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And, this is only his second season. Last time, he had played only two matches. His solid batting at the top of the order has been a blessing for Kerala, which has often struggled to get good totals. The team needed a dependable batsman who is willing to graft with so many stroke-makers around.

Rahul has, indeed, been the find of the season.

“His batting has been one of the biggest pluses we have had this season,” says coach Dav Whatmore.

“We hadn’t played him at the start of the season, but he learned a lot by watching others bat from the pavilion.”

The 27-year-old nods in agreement. “While I was out of the team, I studied carefully how the other batsmen played,” Rahul says.

“I was aware of the fact that I would have to play a waiting game and leave some balls. One has to do that in a team that has several attacking batsmen.”

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Looking back at his 127 against Himachal Pradesh, which was the foundation for Kerala’s victory in the must-win game at Nadaun, Rahul terms it as the “best innings” of his life.

“The coach had asked me to stay at the wicket as long as I could, as we wanted to reduce Himachal’s lead as much as possible,” he says. “It felt great that my maiden hundred helped my team score an important win.”

That win and the subsequent victory against Gujarat in the quarterfinal look like part of a dream for Rahul.

“For someone who comes from a village called Vandaanam near Alappuzha and who started playing cricket at the rather late age of 15, all this is incredible,” he says.

“Here I was playing against the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Parthiv Patel, whom I had only watched on television, while growing up in Alappuzha.”

Rahul appeared for the selection trial for the Alappuzha district team after reading about it in a local newspaper. “That particular report said that one could attend the selection trial even without (having) a cricket kit; I had not gone for the previous trials because I didn't have one,” he says. “I used to play with a rubber ball, you know.”

Since then, it has indeed been a fascinating journey for Rahul.