Dravid: KL Rahul ‘very keen’ on giving wicketkeeping a go

Dravid: KL Rahul ‘very keen’ on giving wicketkeeping a go

KL Rahul has started only one first-class match as the designated wicketkeeper, but that doesn’t seem like it will hold India back from playing him as a wicketkeeper in the two-Test series in South Africa. Two days before the first Test in Centurion, coach Rahul Dravid spoke at length about the challenge for Rahul but also the opportunities it opens up for both Rahul, who will be making a Test comeback, and India.

“I see it as an exciting challenge and an opportunity for him to certainly do something different,” Dravid said. “With Ishan [Kishan] not being available, the opportunity came up. We have a couple of keepers we can choose from. Rahul is certainly one. We have had this discussion with him, we’ve discussed this with him. You know, he is very confident, he is very keen on giving it a go. We do understand that it’s probably something he has not done as often. He has been doing it regularly in 50-overs cricket. So that’s certainly tough, you know, to play 50 overs and then bat as well in a full day. That can take a lot out of your body.

“So he has prepared well, I must say, over the last five, six months. He has done a lot of keeping, even though it’s in the white-ball format. But this will be a new and exciting challenge for him as well. I guess one of the things here is that if anything there is not going to be that much of spin bowling. Probably more pace bowling here than there is spin, so it will ease him into that role a little bit if anything.

“It’s something that we will see how it goes and how it pans out, but it’s really nice to have someone like him and the options that he provides us. Just having his ability with the bat would be something that would be really useful. And let’s see how he goes with the gloves. I mean, he has kept really well in one-day cricket. So just a question of now transferring that into red-ball cricket for longer.”

The window has opened up for Rahul, who scored a century as an opener on India’s last tour of South Africa, in the absence of the injured Rishabh Pant, who scored one in the middle order himself. India are conscious their keeper contribute with the bat.

“For us, the big challenge is if we can really put some runs on the board and score those critical, extra 60-70 runs that gives you a great chance. If I go back to the last series that I was here, the one thing we did here [in the first Test] really well was we had a really good first innings. We had a really good first day and got to 327 in the first innings. If you can put up those kinds of scores on challenging wickets, you put yourself ahead in a Test match. But in the next two Test matches, I just felt in our third innings, we could not score those 50, 60 extra runs. You know, we just felt short and they bowled well.”

Since the last trip, India have seen the introduction of more attacking batters. Dravid said they weren’t asking the young batters to alter the game but to be aware of match situations.

“We encourage the players to play the way they feel most comfortable in,” Dravid said. “In the end, you are judged by the results you produce. The guys know that, they understand that. We want to encourage them to play in the way that they play, but also keeping in view the conditions and keeping certain sort of tactical things that you have to be aware of when you play in South Africa. The nature of the ball and how that behaves over the course of 80 overs and the kind of shots you can play may be in the early part of innings vis-a-vis what you might be able to do later on.

“I think there’s a balance between finding that, just having the cricket smarts and to read a game and to understand the situation and play according to the situation. But of course, allowing yourself to express yourself. So certainly, we’ve got guys who do play their shots and we are not going to hold them back, and we are going to allow them to express themselves, and hopefully they’ll make some smart decisions when the situation arrives.”

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