Dharamshala, Oct 21: India head coach Rahul Dravid lavished rich praise on KL Rahul’s performances with the bat and gloves in the ongoing Men’s ODI World Cup, saying that his wicket-keeping has been superb in the tournament and has also batted really well.
Rahul has taken five catches in the tournament so far, with his catch of Mehidy Hasan Miraz, made with an outstretched left hand, being the highlight in Pune. With the bat, Rahul was instrumental in rescuing India from 2-3 against Australia at Chennai with an unbeaten 97 and sharing a match-winning 165-run partnership off 215 balls with Virat Kohli.
Dravid also knows a thing or two about batting as well as keeping wickets, having donned the dual role during 2003 World Cup. “It's certainly not easy and I think he is doing a fantastic job of it. I thought Rahul's really kept superbly in this tournament and then batted really well whenever he's got the opportunity to do that, especially in the first game.”
“But it is challenging, because for someone like him who, and having had that experience myself, he's not someone who keeps regularly at all. But he's probably kept a little bit more than I have. As a youngster, he kept probably up to his under-19 days, and he's kept in a few T20 games, as well for Karnataka and all that,” said Dravid in the pre-match press conference.
He also elaborated on how Rahul had to work hard on both of his skills due to right thigh injury sustained in IPL 2023 and needed surgery, plus a niggle unrelated to original injury which kept him out of Asia Cup group stages in September.
“So, he kept a little bit more than I did, but certainly not easy, considering he was also out with injury for four or five months. When we first decided that he would keep and we wanted to have that kind of option with him as one of the options of being able to keep in and bat in the middle order.”
“We thought we would build him up to this tournament by giving him game time and building him up. But unfortunately, due to his injury, he actually couldn't keep for a while. But the way he's come back, the way he's worked hard, even in his injury, he worked really hard.”
“When he started getting back to skills, spent a lot of time with the wicket-keeping, worked really hard on it. So I thought he's kept really well in this thing and it's been really good to see. It just certainly gives us a lot of confidence in him and his ability.”
Asked to assess New Zealand, one of the two unbeaten sides alongside India in the competition, Dravid remarked the hosts’ will have to be at their absolute best in facing a very good side in the Blackcaps.
“I will say that they are playing very good cricket. They play in India a lot and they played here (earlier this year). They come on tours to India a lot. A lot of their players have played in the IPL, so they're very used to these conditions.”
“A lot of experience in their team as well. If you look at their squad, we were going through their squad and obviously doing our strategy meetings, and they do have a lot of experience and depth in their squad as well. They are well balanced. So, yes, of course, a very good team and playing good cricket as well. So, we know we will have to be at our absolute best.”
“But I think it's really exciting for us as well because we believe that we are playing good cricket at the moment. So, it should be a really good contest and we know that we will have to play well but we are very confident.”
Dravid also thinks dew will be a factor during Sunday’s top of the table clash and admitted that the team needs to have the belief in their skills to upstage the opposition irrespective of the uncontrollable factors like dew.
“Dew factor is important. Dew is there here - there is nothing to hide in this. We are in Dharamshala, the temperature is cold so there will definitely be dew. Dew is a factor – but you can't think much about it. Of course, you can make tactics and strategies according to that, but you have no guarantee that you will win the toss. So, you have to plan both.”
“It's a good thing here - we have seen that the Netherlands defended against South Africa. Bangladesh chased the first match against them. But it was a day match. At night the Netherlands defended the score. So, it's not like you can't defend. If you have to bowl in dew, then you have to make a few more runs.”
“You have to play positively and give yourself a cushion and you can also bowl and defend. So, the toss is not in our hands. We don't know if we'll bat or bowl. Sometimes it's in your hands, sometimes it's not. So, you can't decide that. But you should have the belief that whatever the situation is, we'll try our best to win the match.” (IANS)