Dual role in ODIs keeping me on my toes, keeps me challenged: KL Rahul

KL Rahul (ANI Photo)NEW DELHI: India’s wicket-keeper batter KL Rahul said that his dual role in one-day internationals is keeping him on his toes and making him work harder. Rahul disclosed that the team management has given him time to settle into this new role.Rahul added that it is not something new as he has been doing this for a while now.Read AlsoIndia vs Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Highlights: Gutsy Rahul fifty, Kuldeep help India seal seriesShowing some glimpses of form with a gritty unbeaten 64, KL Rahul anchored India to a hard-earned four-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the second ODI at the Eden Garden is Kolkata on Thursday. The win gave India an unassailable 2-0 series lead going into the Trivandraum ODI on Sunday. Under-fire Rahul,”Obviously, I’ve done this for a couple of years now. From the end of 2019, throughout 2020 and a few games in 2021. It’s not something that’s new,” Rahul said in the media interaction after guiding India to a series-sealing win over Sri Lanka in the second ODI in Kolkata.”The team has given me time to settle into this position and role. When you have the backing of your captain and coach, it helps you focus and bring your 100 percent concentration, which is what the team is expecting.”Yes, it’s different to what I do in other formats that keeps me on my toes, keeps me challenged — a different role helps me understand my game better,” Rahul said regarding his dual role and new batting position, in the middle-order.1/202nd ODI: KL Rahul anchors India’s series win over Sri Lanka with fighting fifty Previous NextShow CaptionsUnder-fire KL Rahul made amends for his poor run of form as he anchored India’s series clinching four-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the second ODI with a dogged 64 on a tricky Eden Gardens track.Snubbed time and again, Kuldeep Yadav proved his mettle yet another time as he formed a lovely bowling alliance with pacer Mohammed Siraj (3/30) to demolish Sri Lanka for 215 inside 40 overs after they opted to bat.The paltry chase on the quick Eden outfield however was not a cakewalk for the Indian team, which lost its top-four batters for 86 runs in 14.2 overs.Needing 130 from 214 balls, Rahul was the only designated batter left as he once again proved his utility in the middle overs with an unbeaten 64 off 103 balls that took India home with 40 balls to spare.The win also gave India an unassailable 2-0 series lead going into the Thiruvananthapuram ODI on Sunday.”I won’t say it was a flat wicket, or it was doing a lot that it was impossible to bat. When Sri Lanka started, I thought it was a 280-300 wicket,” Rahul said after the match.Having started off with a boundary, Rahul was quick to slow down as he ran hard for his singles en route to a 93-ball fifty.The need of the hour was to play sensibly as Rahul and Hardik Pandya (36 off 53 balls) curbed their natural strokeplay in a decisive 75-run partnership that came off 119 balls.India earlier endured some tense moments inside the powerplay when Rohit Sharma (17) and Shubman Gill (21) departed in four deliveries after an attacking start.Last match centurion Virat Kohli (4) became the third casualty, when he was cleaned up by Lahiru Kumara, to be 62/3 in 9.3 overs.More anxiety was in store as India were reduced to 86/4 in 14.2 overs when Shreyas Iyer was dismissed leg before by a ball going down the leg.Kuldeep once again displayed his skills with the ball and required calmness with the bat in his two boundaries towards the end of the chase.The left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep got a surprise call-up after leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal pulled out with a “sore right shoulder”.Kuldeep (3/51) answered the call grabbing three wickets in his first five overs, in a spell that triggered Sri Lankan collapse.But as Kuldeep ran through the Lankan middle-order that included the prized-scalp of rival skipper Dasun Shanaka (2), the visitors went on to lose five wickets in the space of 43 balls.But some late fireworks by Dunith Wellalage (32) and Wanindu Hasaranga (21) took the team past the 200-run mark before Siraj (5.4-0-30-3) polished off the tail.Young Umran Malik also returned with figures of 2/48 from his seven overs.Replacing in-form opener Pathum Nissanka, Nuwanindu Fernando looked solid and hit a splendid half-century on debut in a 73-run partnership with Kusal Mendis (34).The Indian new ball bowlers Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj (3/30) swung both ways and got some early movement.Rahul is now batting at No. 5 with young Shubman Gill playing as opener in ODIs with skipper Rohit Sharma.Rahul added that he has to work harder on his fitness for the additional responsibility.”I’ve to work slightly differently when it comes to batting in the middle-order. Wicket-keeping and batting can be slightly more taxing on the body, because I have not done it for too long, I’ve done it on and off in white ball cricket.”That’s the tough part. But since I know this is what is required from me, I try to manage my body and work that much harder on my fitness. Little bit of work on my keeping and a lot of work on batting in the middle-order and batting against spin.”Read AlsoBatting at No. 5 has helped me understand my game better: KL RahulSenior batter KL Rahul has indicated that skipper Rohit Sharma wants him to become the team’s mainstay at No.5, which will improve his batting in the middle overs and also help the wicketkeeper-batter become a better player of spin bowling.”Any role that helps win matches for my team and country is what satisfies me the most wherever I bat. Firstly, I want to be in the playing XI, that’s the most important thing.”Rahul also said he has got used to playing different roles for the team.”Once you are there, whatever the team requires me to do, I try to do that. That’s something that I’ve done throughout. Since the time I’ve started playing cricket for India,” he added remembering his Test debut in the Boxing Day Test against Australia in 2014.”Then afterwards I went on to open, played at No 6 and when Shikhar (Dhawan) got injured, I opened again, played at No 4 and 5.”Rahul, who also led India in Rohit’s absence last year, said the trust bestowed on him by the team management helps him thrive under pressure.”I’ve been all over, I’ve been asked to keep wickets. It’s been fun for me. I’ve really enjoyed being thrown different challenges. I’ve really thrived on performing in tough conditions and being put under pressure.”That only tells me that the team really trusts me and backs me, under Virat and Rohit. I’ve really enjoyed doing that. It helped me understand myself, my game, and my batting better. How I’m under pressure, when taken out of my comfort zone.”Chasing a paltry 216 in the second ODI, Rahul (64* off 103 balls) bailed India out from being 86/4 with his knock of sheer patience and perseverance. He was the only designated batter left in the middle as he stitched two key partnerships with Hardik Pandya (36) and Axar Patel (21) to take them over the line in 43.2 overs.”There’s little bit happening with the ball as well, we handled the pressure pretty well. Games like this are also important. We played one 370-plus and they scored 300-plus,” he added.(With inputs from PTI)