After almost a year away from the cricket field, the Indian cricket team will be back in action later in the week as they prepare to take on Australia. The Indian squad remains largely unchanged despite the long hiatus due to the global pandemic, but the white ball games in this series will see a vice-captain at the helm of affairs, as KL Rahul deputises for an injured Rohit Sharma. 

The 28-year-old batsman travels to Australia off the back of a splendid 2020 Dream11 Indian Premier League, where he was the leading run scorer of the tournament. Rahul also got a first experience of captaincy this season, as he led his franchise Kings XI Punjab for the entirety of the tournament. The wicketkeeper-batsman would now hope to bring those lessons to good use if called upon to captain the country anytime during the white ball series against Australia.

“I got a feeler for it (captaincy) in the IPL. I had to play similar roles there also for Kings XI Punjab. It was something new and challenging, but I think I have got used to that role and started enjoying it. Hope to continue the same here and make sure the team environment is great, and players are hungry to win games,” revealed Rahul in the pre-match press conference ahead of the Australia series. 

“When you are playing for your country, there are 11 of the best guys playing together. They are all skilled and all have a great cricketing mind; and having an able and passionate leader like Virat (Kohli) will make my job easier. I am looking forward to this new responsibility, it is something that every player looks forward to and it is a very proud moment for me,” added Rahul in the same interview. 

Reflecting back on his 2020 IPL season, the stylish batsman from Karnataka believes that it was the perfect opportunity for him to cut his teeth in leadership and captaincy, in order to prepare better for this series. 

“Something that I learnt in the IPL was to stay in the moment. When I’m batting, to think as a batsman and assess the conditions, and as a wicketkeeper it is important in the last 3-4 seconds when the bowler is running in, it is important to switch on and not be thinking as a leader of the team,” explained Rahul. 

Filling the Dhoni void

The series against Australia will be the first that the Indian team will play since veteran keeper MS Dhoni formally announced his retirement. With Dhoni no longer in the team, KL Rahul would be expected to pick up the baton as the nation’s new wicketkeeper batsman. 

The 28-year-old was quick to recognise the magnitude of his role, given how consistent MS Dhoni has been as a keeper batsman for the country for the better part of the last two decades. “Obviously, nobody can fill the place of MS Dhoni, he has obviously shown the way for a wicketkeeper batsman,” started off Rahul.

“With players like Yuzi (Chahal), Jaddu (Ravindra) and Kuldeep (Yadav) and the other spinners on the team, I have a decent friendship and understanding; and I will probably look to give them feedback about a better length or better pace to bowl at. Anyone doing that role of wicket keeper will have that responsibility; and hopefully I can get better at reading games and give the bowlers and captain some good feedback,” added Rahul.