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KL Rahul emerges as India's Mr Dependable in 2023

Flashback 2023: KL Rahul emerges as India's Mr Dependable across the formats in 2023. KL Rahul scored 452 runs in CWC 2023.


CWC 2023, India vs Netherlands_ KL Rahul scored century (102 off 64) against Netherlands _ Walking Wicket (Photo_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
KL Rahul had a great 2023 (Photo: ©BCCI/Twitter)

India have had a mixed bag in 2023 as a team, having not been able to win any of the 2 ICC finals (WTC & World Cup), both against Australia but were quite dominant apart from those 2 major blips. India lost only one series in the calendar year, and it incidentally came against Australia (1-2) when the World champions toured the country for a 3-match series.


The reason for India's team to win almost everything is because they were able to find match-winners in any situation in any given format. One such match-winner that India had on more than one occasion is KL Rahul, who seems to be in a transitioning phase in his career.


KL Rahul was made a stop-gap wicketkeeper in the last few years but only donned the role when India was not playing their first-choice wicketkeeper. However, post the unfortunate injury to Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul was more prominently given the task behind the stumps. He was India’s No.1 keeper whenever he featured in the playing XI, especially in ODIs this year.


KL Rahul's steady rise as a wicketkeeper

As mentioned, KL Rahul was a sporadic keeper for India and only began to keep wickets for the country in 2020. But from then to end of last year, Rahul was with the team as the designated wicketkeeper only in 8 T20Is & 12 ODIs and he was donning the same role for his IPL teams but again sporadically.

 

The common review from the experts is that Rahul must improve his skills as a keeper since the team can’t afford him making mistakes in big games. KL Rahul has tremendously succeeded in that aspect as he came out with flying colours. Throughout ODIs in 2023 and in the important World Cup at home, Rahul’s performance behind the stumps with 17 dismissals was amazing and was highly appreciated for his work from all quarters. 


This has led to KL Rahul embarking on a new journey in his Test career. In the oning tour of South Africa, the 31-year-old made his debut as a full-time wicketkeeper in the longest format in addition to being a middle-order batter.


His start to this new role in Test cricket has been admirable as KL Rahul scored one of the best overseas knocks by an India batter in South Africa. On challenging conditions, Rahul’s ability to play with lower-order was on display during his incredible 101 at Centurion (his 2nd in consecutive Tests). Apart from that Rahul’s performance behind the stumps was quite decent on the pace bouncy conditions of South Africa.



KL Rahul has done well in chase for India in ODI_ Walking wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
KL Rahul has done well in chase for India in ODI (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)

Rahul is a match-winner in ODIs

With Pant out of reckoning at the start of the year, the onus fell on Rahul not just as a successful keeper but also to make an impact as a middle-order batter. Previously, in the away ODI tours of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, the right-hander was tried at No.5 and he performed quite well. But it was in the World Cup year of 2023, that Rahul was given this role permanently.


He almost immediately made an impact in India’s home series against Sri Lanka. In the Kolkata ODI (64* off 103), he showcased his calm demeanour to take his side to victory following a top-order batting collapse. A decent ODI series against Australia followed. However, this move suffered a setback courtesy of an injury in the IPL 2023.


This meant Rahul had to miss the series against West Indies, one of the last tours before the Asia Cup and the World Cup. He was in danger of missing out on a World Cup spot to Ishan Kishan who did decently well in the opportunities he got. But the team management took a gamble on Rahul, and he was given a chance in Asia Cup where he made 169 in 3 innings including a match-winning knock against Pakistan. 


He did well in the Australia series that followed. But, his best ODI tournament yet was the ICC World Cup 2023 where he not only proved his keeping prowess but showcased great game awareness with the bat. He made 452 runs in 10 innings and became India’s fastest century-maker in World Cups apart from playing his best ODI knock (97*) against Australia in a tense run chase. This shows his game awareness and the strong mental strength he possesses as a middle-order batter.   



Rahul, the natural leader?

In between all those, KL Rahul proved to be a brilliant reader of the game and has helped his skipper Rohit Sharma, be it with the fielding adjustments or advising on taking DRS. His presence has been a major boost for the team and his brief captaincy tenure has shown his capability as a leader.


Rahul led the young team in South Africa to the ODI series to win and this can be a sign of things going forward. With the uncertainty of Hardik Pandya owing to his injuries, Rahul seems to be a natural successor to Rohit as far as the ODI captaincy is concerned. There is still, however, a long way to go. But, we can say that Rahul has arrived as Mr. Dependable in all situations. 


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