Versatile Rahul excels again:2nd Test

Indian cricketer Lokesh Rahul plays a shot during the opening day of the second test match between Sri Lanka and India at the P. Sara Oval Cricket Stadium in Colombo on August 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s still early days yet for KL Rahul but there is undeniable hint that this is a cricketer who can serve Indian cricket with distinction in years to come.Rahul had given a notice of his potential with a century against Australia in Sydney in January 2015, in what was only his second Test. But he has raised the bar in the last three-four months by excelling in all three formats – he excelled in the Indian Premier League for RCB, scored an ODI century in Zimbabwe and then seized his chance with both hands with a century in the Test here.Teammate R Ashwin calls him a ‘batting machine.’ “He keeps batting all the time and it’s not a surprise that he’s made runs,” Ashwin had said after the first day’s play in the Jamaica Test.Rahul’s natural talent and his ability to keep working on various aspects of his game make him a formidable force. Add to that clarity of thought, which helps him understand his own game, and you have a player who can adapt and excel in different situations.His 158 against West Indies in the Jamaica Test was an exhibition of high skill, elegance, con centration and endurance. As Rahul himself said, the heat was oppressive – he began cramping in the post-lunch session on Day Two – and the pitch was two-paced and had spongy bounce. Still, while others around him struggled, Rahul made batting look easy and raced to his fifty off 62 balls. As conditions changed, he too slowed down a bit to play a long hand, which has put the team in a winning position.Before the first Test in Antigua, skipper Virat Kohli had hailed Rahul’s presence in the squad, saying, “It’s always good to have on the bench someone like Rahul, who is very keen and ready to go out there and express himself.”Rahul is playing at Sabina Park only because first-choice opener M Vijay is injuredHow difficult is it to perform when you are not a regular member of the team? “It didn’t look too difficult. I went in there and started hitting from the first or second ball. Obviously, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the nets. Like you said, it’s a different challenge once you go out there and when you have the pressure of the game. But I tried to keep things simple.With the success he has had over the last few months, is he in the best phase of his career? “So far, it has been really good. The last couple of months, I’ve been performing well. I’ve been consistent in all the three formats and that’s what I want to do as a cricketer. Right now, I’m in a good space. I’m only watching the ball and trying to judge it and if I think the ball is there to be hit, I’m hitting it. That’s the only thing that doesn’t change with T20, One-day or Test cricket -when the ball is there to be hit, you hit the ball. That’s the only thing that runs in my mind.”Kohli had also called Rahul “a complete package”, given his outstanding fielding and catching abilities and his prowess as a part-time wicketkeeper. Reminded of Virat and Ashwin’s glowing words about him, Rahul said, “To have them speak highly of me gives confidence and that’s the best thing about this young team. Everyone believes in each other. We’re loving playing with each other.Rahul also had a good word for the West Indies bowling when asked if India could have scored a bit faster on Day Two. “As a batting unit we are happy with the way we stuck it out there. It was not the easiest wicket to bat on. Credit should be given to West Indies bowlers. They stuck to the right channels and kept it tight.”

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