Rahul as keeper-batsman lends balance, will continue for now Kohli

BENGALURU: India captain Virat Kohli on Sunday said the team will continue with KL Rahul as the wicketkeeper-batsman “for a while” as he lends massive balance to the side just like his illustrious namesake Rahul Dravid did during 2003 World Cup.

Rahul has been in sublime touch with the bat and in the last two ODIs against Australia, also did a decent job behind the stumps in 2-1 series win. He kept the wickets here on Sunday even though Rishabh Pant had regained full fitness after getting concussed by Pat Cummins bouncer in the first ODI.

“I think lack of clarity in terms of positions has really hurt us in the past. Now that we understand that this feels right, we will go ahead with that for a while and figure out if this is the right thing to do or not. You cannot chip and change immediately and create confusion among the group,” Kohli said at a media conference on Sunday with reference to No 4 conundrum during ODI World Cup.

“We are playing very well, unchanged team and did the job two with back to back wins. Don’t see any reason why we should change this balance. It has done well for the team,” making it clear that Rishabh Pant might have to wait a bit longer for his comeback in the playing XI.

“It (Rahul’s keeping) definitely allows us to play extra batsmen which strengthen our batting massively. That is a very important factor as far as the team balance is concerned,” he said. “If you look at the 2003 World Cup when Rahul Bhai started keeping, the balance became different because you could play an extra batter and guys at the top could really play positive cricket,” Kohli said referring to India’s runners-up showing in 2003.

Rahul batted at No 3 in the series opener, at No 5 in Rajkot before opening in the decider as Shikhar Dhawan was injured. “Look, he is very open to playing anywhere because he is a proper batsman and can do you good in any format and any position in the game.

“He won’t go slam-bang from ball one but he can do what he did in Rajkot playing good cricketing shots. So I think a solid game plan and understanding of his game is helping him,” Kohli explained.

Kohli is happy that Rahul has worked on his game and is now a match-winner. “He has reflected on what he needs to do in the last five six months and he has come a long way. Good signs for us. Gives a boost to the team because he keeps as well,” said the skipper.

So how does recently discovered Rahul the wicketkeeper-batsman leave other options in a World Cup year?

“Look we have what we have in the team. It is just that Rahul really brings in good balance if he can keep and bat that well in that position. He has come into the slot and he has done well so we will have to persist with that a little bit and see where that takes us and not necessarily be confused about the other options we have,” said Kohli as the question was an indirect reference to the Rishabh Pant vs Mahendra Singh Dhoni debate. PTI