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KL Rahul looks to cash in on season of fresh starts under ‘inspiration’ Virat Kohli

KL Rahul, whose position in India’s Test side is all but untouchable, now wants to fully establish himself in the side’s limited overs squad as well.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 19, 2017 19:55 IST
N. Ananthanarayanan
N. Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, Dambulla
India vs Sri Lanka,India national cricket team,Sri Lanka national cricket team
KLRahul will aim to make himself a regular in India’s limited overs squad as well. (REUTERS)

If KL Rahul looks in the mirror, it would reveal the face of a bearded man alright, but it could well be Virat Kohli peering at him, such has been their kindred spirit.

The young opening batsman has often spoken about the influence Kohli has had in his outlook towards the game and how to stay focused, and keep performing with the intensity that is Kohli’s trademark.

“We feel lucky we don’t have to look too far. The guy who inspires you is sitting right next to you in the dressing room,” Rahul, 25, said in an interview last year. The learning process has accelerated as they share the Royal Challengers Bangalore dressing room as well in the IPL.

Big opportunity

Rahul will look to make a big statement as a versatile batsman like his skipper when India take on Sri Lanka in the five-match One-day International series, starting at the Dambulla International Stadium on Sunday.

A prolific scorer, Rahul is the only India batsman to have a century in all three formats, and make an instant impact. He scored a century in only his second Test, at Sydney no less, after making his debut on the 2014-15 tour of Australia.

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Although it was too early to rope him into the ODI squad for the World Cup, he hit a century on debut, in Zimbabwe in June, 2016. It took him only the second T20 series to get a century in the shortest format – against West Indies at Fort Lauderhill last year.

ODI comeback

Technically sound to click at the highest level in all conditions, a shoulder injury kept Rahul out of the ICC Champions Trophy. Kohli has had no hesitation in backing him, and will hand him another comeback of sorts.

Rahul’s ODI run stands at just six games, after he was omitted following a sequence of 8, 5 and 11 in the first three games of the home series against England late last year.

He returned to the squad after injury for the Sri Lanka tour, only for illness to keep him out of the first Test in Galle. Kohli backed him to return in the next.

“It is very important for us to make him feel that this is his spot. It won’t be changed because of unfortunate events that happen outside of the playing field or the injuries that you can’t control.”

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In ODIs though, Rahul will find himself in unfamiliar territory as Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are the established openers. But selection committee chairman, MSK Prasad, emphasised the value Rahul brings to the team, declaring he will bat at No 4. That has left Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav jockeying for one slot.

With India eyeing glory at the 2019 World Cup, Sri Lanka will be a key early phase in the build-up. Rahul clicking will be vital as it will boost the middle order while a competent hand will also be ready to move up if the opening pair falters.

First Published: Aug 19, 2017 18:25 IST