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KL Rahul

KL Rahul wants to grow in his new role as team flexibility takes priority

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Ace middle-order batsman, the first-choice wicket-keeper to go with the role of deputy to Virat Kohli, KL Rahul has now become the fulcrum to the Indian limited-overs set-up after years of being a sidekick. And understandably, the new-found responsibility has made Rahul, who led Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League before flying to Australia, a lot more pragmatic and expanded his outlook towards the game as well.

With the One-day International series between India and Australia kick-starting in Sydney on November 27, the newly-appointed vice-captain of the Indian team spoke about the flexibility that his role has provided to the team. Rahul, who opened for Kings XI Punjab, in all probability, will don the No.5 batting role with the Men in Blue, but he is confident of his consistency in handling all three responsibilities. So much so that he figured out that if he can contribute heavily to the Indian side, it’ll allow the management to play a specialist batsman or bowler, depending on the composition of the side.

“The last ODI series we played I batted at five and kept wickets. It’s a role I quite enjoyed and happy to play the role the team gives me. World Cups are important and is a long vision for every team. We are still taking it one game at a time. If I stay consistent, it gives us the option of playing an extra bowler or batsman. It’s a role I would love to do,” Rahul said in a virtual pre-match press conference in Sydney.

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Be it injuries in the early part of his career or a mixed-up approach to his batting or lack of slots in the Indian batting order due to the presence of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli up top, the Bengaluru boy had to be content with opportunities here and there. However, he is ready to change that perception and be a regular in his new No.5 role with a barrage of limited-overs assignments coming in India’s way.

“I haven’t played a lot of 50-over cricket for a continuous period of time. I’ve never got a long run even though I’ve been part of the India side for a few years. Feels good that I am contributing to the team’s win and playing my role well. I am happy I am able to put out consistent performances,” Rahul added.

With a chart-topping 670 runs in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League, Rahul will be confident to carry on without much fuss. Even before the Coronavirus outbreak hit the cricketing world, Rahul was in an imposing form as well, managing 88 off 64 in Hamilton and 112 off 113 balls in Mount Maunganui in the ODI series against the Kiwis. As the Indian team resume their international commitment after a gap of almost nine months, those runs might come in handy for his own good.

“I had actually forgotten that the last innings I had played I scored a hundred in New Zealand. I know it’s a fresh start for everybody and it’s important for us as a team to start well, enjoy being out there in the middle. This is something that we really, really missed doing – wearing the blue jersey, going out there, and representing the country. It’s an honour and a privilege to be back out there and playing cricket in circumstances like this. We’re all very excited and looking forward to the games,” the 28-year old said.

India and Australia will square off against each other in three ODIs, as many T20Is before locking horns in the eagerly-awaited Border-Gavaskar Trophy.