IPL 2018: Not a regular keeper, yet the man!

Kings XI Punjab is all set to field K.L. Rahul as wicketkeeper in the IPL; Karnataka coach P.V. Shashikanth calls him 'selfless' like Rahul Dravid.

K. L. Rahul is set to be the glovesman for Kings XI Punjab.   -  Twitter/ @klrahul11

Wicketkeepers, in international cricket, were never known for their batting prowess. The trend started in the nineties; the arrival of Adam Gilchrist erased the misconception that ‘keepers cannot bat. Cricket — adjusting to time, space and formats — now prefers stumpers who can swing their willows better.

In the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Kings XI Punjab — the franchise that did not pick any regular ‘keeper at the auction — decided to hand over the gloves to K. L. Rahul, a top-order batsman for India and Karnataka.

Uttar Pradesh (UP) all-rounder Akshdeep Nath is likely to be the second wicketkeeper in the side.

READ: 'Best Kings XI team in 10 years'

Having kept wickets for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the past, Rahul doesn’t see it as an impossible task but he admitted the challenges that he may need to overcome. “For now, I will be keeping is what I know. But you never know, the game is fast and you got to be flexible in your head. There will be changes according to the situation, wickets and other factors. So you can’t really tell who is going to be permanent in any position,” he told Sportstar on Thursday.

“As I am not a regular keeper, it will be quite challenging skill-wise and for the body, but I will try to give my best shot. You got to keep it simple, do your best and hope for the best to happen,” he added.

Karnataka coach P. V. Shashikanth, who is aware of Rahul’s credentials as a ‘keeper, called him “selfless”.

“He is same like Rahul Dravid. When he was playing for India, he was also asked to keep. He comes from the same mould. I remember a game when he was playing U-22 and we had a main ‘keeper in the first innings. He left almost five or six byes and those went for boundaries; almost 20 runs were leaked like that. K. L was also in the side, so I asked him to keep in the second innings. It was a tight game and every run was important. He kept brilliantly and ultimately, we lost by 20 runs,” he recalled.

Rahul also kept wickets for Karnataka in the Vijay Hazare Trophy final against Saurashtra this season. “He readily accepted. He had come from South Africa, but there was no sign of a jet lag. He said, ‘sir, anything for the side, whenever you want me to keep, I will keep if it can strike a balance in the side and you can play an extra batsman or a bowler’. He fits into the role, especially in the T20Is and ODIS,” Shashikant reasoned.

“As I am not a regular keeper, it will be quite challenging skill-wise and for the body, but I will try to give my best shot. You got to keep it simple, do your best and hope for the best to happen.”

— K.L. Rahul

 

Akshdeep, a part of the U-19 World Cup winning team of 2012, had a bit of training at the Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament as well.

“Now I am putting in more hours with the special trainers. You need different set of muscles that you need to use. Keeping is about spotting every ball and sight movements are involved,” he said, adding, “I know K. L. for a long time, he is a good guy and an exceptional player. There is no such thing as to who is the first ‘keeper or who is the second. We both have kept for our state, so the preparations are going well.”

Kings XI will start its IPL campaign against Delhi Daredevils on Sunday.