KL Rahul “ready” to keep wickets in Tests if asked, hints at Rinku’s ODI debut vs SA

PTI, Dec 16, 2023, 8:46 PM IST

Source: PTI / File

Johannesburg: KL Rahul is not chucking the big gloves away in ODIs anytime soon and made it clear that he wouldn’t mind standing behind the stumps when the ‘Boxing Day’ Test against South Africa comes calling in just over a week’s time.

Leading the ODI team after regular skipper Rohit Sharma took a break from the white ball leg of the South Africa tour, the stylish right-hander also gave enough hints that Rinku Singh is all set to be rewarded with an ODI debut after displaying impressive technique, sound temperament and commendable game awareness in the T20 series.

Asked whether he will keep wickets in the ODI series starting on Sunday, Rahul answered in affirmative. ”Yes, I will I be keeping wickets and batting in the middle-order and after that I would be happy to keep wickets in Test matches,” Rahul told mediapersons during the pre-series interaction.

”I have always been open to doing new roles and accepting whatever role team wants me to perform. If that’s the role the management sees me during Test matches, happy to do that.” He also hinted that Sanju Samson, for the time being, is being looked at as a potential No. 5 specialist batter.

Having missed action for the better part of 2023 due to hamstring injury and subsequent surgery, the Bengaluru man doesn’t want to let go any opportunity.

”I want to play as many games as possible for the country. I have missed a lot of games because of injuries and I would like to make most of time and play as many games and perform whatever role is expected of me. That’s not going to change. ”For me, team always comes first. One of the first things taught to us was it’s a team game, however cliched it might sound. You have to be flexible, adjust and adapt.”

”Rinku will get his chance”

The skipper didn’t beat around the bush when asked if Rinku, who boasts of an average of nearly 50 (49.83) and strike-rate of 93 plus from 55 List A games for UP and Central Zone, will get his maiden ODI cap or not.

”Yeah, I think so,” Rahul replied when asked if Rinku would fit in as No.5 or 6 in future ODI set-up. ”He has shown what a really good player he is. We all knew watching him in IPL that he is very skilled but what’s good to see is temperament he has shown in T20 series, game awareness, calmness under pressure. It was very refreshing for me to see on TV. I just spoke to him about it as well,” Rahul stated.

”In ODI format as well, he has performed across formats in first class cricket and so yes he will get his opportunity in ODI series.”

He was equally ecstatic while speaking about another rookie batter — opener B Sai Sudharsan, who is also tipped for senior debut in this series — but also reminded that all newcomers might not get an opportunity to showcase their skills.

”He (Sai) is very exciting. There are lot of new players in the team, might be difficult to give all of them an opportunity but lot of them will get their opportunities. We have to make sure they are in right frame of mind and do what they have been doing at first-class level. They don’t need to reinvent anything.

”Sai, I have seen a few games in IPL as well. Looks like a terrific batter who plays both pace and spin really well and eager to get his opportunity.”

”Schedule won’t allow every player to play every format”

With multi-format series scheduled, in this day and age of non-stop cricket, Rahul is pretty certain that all players won’t be available all the time.

”It does feel a bit strange. But that’s how the game is going. Schedule is such that not every player can be available for every format,” Rahul said when asked about Shreyas Iyer being released for Test match preparation after the opening ODI on Sunday.

”The coach (Rahul Dravid) has bigger responsibility and there is focus on Test series and it gives us an opportunity to take up extra responsibility try and play best cricket. Nothing changes for us. Guys who are all here are all deserving as far as call-up to national team is concerned. I trust each of them as selectors have given them opportunities,” the stand-in skipper said.

”Template won’t change but tough to replicate Rohit, Virat”

With the 50-over World Cup having concluded last month, ODI is the least priority among formats and Rahul conceded that while the template they set at the global event continues, one can’t expect greenhorns to just step in and play like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

”I don’t think a lot will change in terms of how we want to play ODIs but can’t expect a newcomer to go out and play the role of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli played in World Cup. It will be too soon and you have to give them time to adjust and there will be no pressure from my side.”

But as far as bigger picture is concerned, it’s still early days, said the skipper.

”I think its too early to look at bigger picture as far as ODI cricket is concerned. The focus is on T20 World Cup which is round the corner and there isn’t a lot of cricket left in terms of Indian team, so focus has shifted a little bit,” he admitted.

”Test cricket will always be an important format for our country and having said that we are here as Indian cricket team to compete in ODI series, against really good South Africa team and focus will be on what’s in front of us.”

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