K. L. Rahul: Leadership role in Tests will be an exciting challenge

The India batter says he will happily embrace the responsibility of captaincy in Test cricket if it is handed to him.

K. L. Rahul will captain the Indian team in the three-match ODI series against South Africa in the absence of Rohit Sharma.   -  REUTERS

India's stand-in ODI captain K. L. Rahul has said he will keenly embrace a designated leadership role in the Test format if given the opportunity.

"I didn't give it a thought until news articles suggesting the same started doing the rounds. I had the opportunity to lead the Test team in Johannesburg which was something really, really special. The result didn't go as expected but it was a great learning experience for me. For anybody playing for the country, leading his side is a dream come true... something he will cherish for a long time to come. I am no different. It will be a huge responsibility if it is given to me. Something that is very exciting. But I am not looking forward to it. If it comes my way, I will look to carry Team India and Indian cricket forward to the best of my ability," Rahul said during a media conference on Tuesday.

Rahul has flourished at multiple positions in the batting order but in limited-overs skipper Rohit Sharma's absence due to a hamstring injury, Rahul confirmed he will bat at the top of the order when his side takes on South Africa at the Boland Park, on Wednesday. He said, "In the last 14-15 months, I have batted at different positions. That's what the team needed of me then. Now I think with Rohit not being here, I will bat at the top."

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When asked what his philosophy as a leader would be like, the 29-year-old batter said, "I take every game as it comes. I am not someone who gets too worried or happy. I stay balanced with the results. There is so much I have learnt from great captains like MS (Dhoni) and Virat (Kohli). I am human. I will make mistakes along the way but I will also learn... I don't want to put added pressure on myself. When I am batting in the middle, I will think like a batter and when I am on the field, I will try and get the group together to enjoy the game.

"Under Virat, we have done exceptional things in white-ball cricket. The pattern is set and we have to build on it. It will be about getting better at what we are already doing. I will look to support the guys so that they go out there and do special things for the team."

India is looking at Venkatesh Iyer as its sixth bowling option, a feature Rahul believes is vital in contemporary cricket. "Iyer has been very exciting since he has played for KKR in the IPL. When he joined us for the New Zealand series, he did really well. Fast bowling all-rounders are always an asset. They balance the team out. He is looking good in the nets. The sixth bowling option, nowadays, in white-ball cricket is very important. As best possible, we are trying to develop that option. We will try to give Iyer that chance."

The pitch in Paarl looks to be spin-friendly and Rahul hinted India may opt for two spinners in the first two ODIs. "We have practised for a couple of days in Boland Park and the pitch does look like it will offer a lot more for the spinners than what we got in the Test series. We have a quality spinner in (Ravichandran) Ashwin. He is coming back to the ODI team and we know what quality he brings. We have (Yuzvendra) Chahal, who has been doing it for years now. If there is any assistance in the pitch, they become very important for us in the first two games."

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Rahul is also looking forward to the return of Shikhar Dhawan, who hasn't played an international game since leading a second-string side in Sri Lanka last year. He said, "He is a senior player. Very experienced. He understands exactly what is required of him. He is in a great state. As a captain, it will be my duty to give him the confidence to go out there and do what he has already been doing for so many years."

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