In a team sport, you need to be flexible: Rahul

KL Rahul has played only 13 times in ODI colours since making his debut in 2016.

KL Rahul scored 60 on his return to the ODI lineup against Afghanistan.   -  AFP

It’s tough to be a reserve batsman in India’s ODI squad. Even tougher to be K.L. Rahul.

At a time when even the regulars in the XI don’t get too much of a hit in the middle with the top three batsmen – Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli – among the all-time most consistent top-order in ODIs, the probability for a reserve batsman to first game-time and then an innings to make a mark is perhaps as low as an Indian politician actually giving up his VIP privileges.

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If you are Rahul, then besides limited opportunities, you also have to deal with the ignominy of moving around in the batting order, thanks to the selectors and the team management being on the same wavelength. As a result, despite featuring in just 13 ODIs (12 innings) since his debut a little over two years ago, besides his preferred and favourite position of an opener (7 innings), Rahul has also batted at No. 3 (1 innings), No. 4 (3 innings) and No. 5 (1 innings) so far.

Naturally, the ODI numbers – 317 runs at 35.22 – don't do justice to one of the very few India batsmen to have scored a hundred for India in all three international formats. Rahul didn't hesitate to admit he found it tough to be moved around the batting order, especially over the last 12 months.

 

“Look, it’s been challenging of course to bat in different positions, and some positions which I haven’t been comfortable with. I’ve always batted at the top of the order from junior cricket, that’s the most comfortable position for me. But in a team sport, you need to be flexible and whatever responsibility the team gives you, you need to put your hand up and try to do the best you can,” Rahul said after scoring a breezy 60 at the top of the order during India's Asia Cup tie versus Afghanistan in Dubai on Tuesday night.

“Unfortunately, for me, the chances I’ve got in the middle order haven’t really gone my way. Again, I just look to keep working hard, keep improving my game and whatever opportunities I get, I try to give it my best shot. It’s good to be out there in the middle today, got the chance finally. I wanted to make the most of it, happy with the way I batted, I guess.”

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Rahul had to wait for his first game of the tournament since Dhawan and Sharma were in supreme touch right from the opening game. With India having made the final with a game in hand, the duo preferred to rest, thus offering Rahul to make a case for a permanent slot in the batting order. The manner in which Rahul has been treated in the Asia Cup suggested that the management has finally zeroed in on him to be the reserve opener.

Rahul also hinted at the same when asked if he has clarity over his ODI role leading into the World Cup? “The team management has sat me down and explained exactly what they expect out of me. I needed to know as well, personally, also to kind of prepare and know in which direction I’m heading. We’ve had a chat, they’ve been very supportive and have given me a clear plan on what they expect me to do. That’ll help, I’ll look to keep improving with each game I play,” he said.

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