The last few months, on a personal front, have been exhilarating for KL Rahul. He won the Orange Cap in the just-concluded IPL after amassing 670 runs and earned plaudits for his captaincy, scripting a sensational turnaround in the fortunes of the Kings XI Punjab’s in the second half. Then, out of the blue, he was named vice-captain for the limited-overs series against Australia starting Friday.
Rahul, right from his age-group days, has loved taking additional responsibilities and he’ll have his hands full in this series. Apart from serving as Virat Kohli’s deputy, Rahul will continue to don the wicketkeeping gloves and with Rohit Sharma missing in action owing to a hamstring injury, he may have to fill in for the opener as well.
"I think I did get a feeler with the IPL," said Rahul on the challenge of handling multiple responsibilities. He was interacting with the media following a training session in Sydney on Thursday. "I had to play a similar role there as well. It was challenging, it was new. I think I got used to that role and I started enjoying it. Hopefully, I'll continue the same here."
"When you are playing for your country, you have 11 of the best guys from your country," he said. "They are all skilled, they all have a great cricket mind, they have a great understanding all by themselves. We have an able and passionate leader like Virat who will always be there for the boys. I’m looking forward to the new responsibilities. It’s something every player looks forward to do. It’s a very proud moment. Hopefully, I can continue putting up the same performances, maybe take it one or two steps ahead and make sure the team environment is great, the players are hungry and are looking forward to win games for their country.”
The start of the Australia series, where India play three ODIs, three T20Is and four Tests, marks the beginning of an important countdown. Next year, India will host the T20 World Cup, Australia will stage the same in 2022 and India will then host the 50-over World Cup in 2023. The competition for a place in the squad is going to be intense. Rahul, who the team management is now looking at as a specialist wicketkeeper-batsman, said that he would strive hard to don the national colours in all of the tournaments.
"Obviously, World Cups are very, very important and that is the long vision for every team and every country," Rahul said. "When it comes to me, it’s just taking it one game at a time. If I keep putting up consistent performances with the bat and the gloves, it obviously gives us the option of playing an extra bowler or batsman. It just helps the team combination a little more, something which personally I would love to do. If the opportunity presents itself, then I can keep in all the three World Cups. I would love to do it for my country."
The India-Australia series has emerged as a marquee cricket event and Rahul said the entire team was looking forward to the tour. "We are playing for the country after a while and we are all very excited to go out there and play some aggressive cricket. Australia is a hard place. We’ve enjoyed coming here and competing, playing hard and aggressive cricket. It’s important that we start well and take it one game at a time.
"Australia is a really, really competitive team and their threat is when they bowl together as a unit. I’ve played against Australia a few times and I’ve realised that they play well together as a pack, especially their bowling unit."