Rahul ready to don keeper role ‘whenever the team wants’

KL Rahul is unaware of the exact reason why Rishabh Pant has been released from India’s ODI squad in Bangladesh. He is, however, ready to play the wicketkeeper’s role – as he did in the first ODI on Sunday – whenever required to in white-ball cricket.

“We haven’t played a lot of ODIs in the last 6-7 months, but if you look at, since 2020 or 2021, I have kept wickets in the one-day format, and I have batted at No. 4 and No. 5 in the middle order,” Rahul said at his press conference after India’s one-wicket defeat in Mirpur. “It’s a role the team has asked me to be ready for.”

The BCCI release that announced Pant’s withdrawal from the ODI squad was worded opaquely – it simply said he had been released “in consultation with the BCCI medical team” – and Rahul had no additional information to share.

“When it comes to Rishabh I’m not very aware, to be honest. I just found out today, in the dressing room, that he’s been released – I don’t know what the reasons are, I think the medical team will be in a better situation to answer that question.

“But this is a role that the team’s always asked me to be ready for in white-ball cricket, and I’ve done it before, and whenever the team wants me to play this role, I play this role.”

Rahul top-scored with 73 off 70 balls in an India total of 186, and looked far more fluent than any of his team-mates on a tricky pitch with uneven bounce and natural variation of turn. He was pleased with the fruits of his efforts to adapt to the conditions in Mirpur, but felt he could have carried on for longer and stretched India’s total past 230. As it happened, he was ninth out in the 40th over, and India were bowled out in the 42nd.

“It was just one of those days where, out of everybody else, I looked like I was timing the ball better and the shots that I picked, fortunately for me, went to the boundary, or every option that I took went my way,” Rahul said. “Something that I’ve been working on even in the last couple of sessions that we’ve been here in Bangladesh.,

“The pitches, even at the back [nets], have been quite similar to what we got in the middle today, so I tried to challenge myself. All the preparation happens before the game, so quite pleased with such innings really give you joy as a batter, because you’re challenged and you have to really put your hand up when your team requires, so I enjoyed my batting today.

“But I would have ideally liked 30-40 more runs towards the end. I did fancy 230-240 if I batted till the end. [Mohammed] Siraj was batting well with me, so if I could have batted another 10 overs and got another 30-40 runs, it could have made a difference.”

India’s total of 186, in the end, proved to be nearly enough, with Bangladesh storming to victory thanks to an improbable, unbroken last-wicket stand of 51 between Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Mustafizur Rahman. The pair rode their luck – Rahul ran from his wicketkeeping post all the way to deep backward square leg to put down a steepling top-edge from Mehidy – but Rahul was philosophical about the way the result went.

“Towards the end, there was only one way they could have won, and I think Mehidy Hasan played a phenomenal innings,” he said. “He took a few chances, took some big risks – which he had to, towards the end, he had to take those big risks and play those big shots – and he found the boundary, and when you only have 30-35 runs [to get], one or two big shots also puts pressure on the opposition and he did that really well.

“And yeah, also a couple of dropped chances didn’t help us. Happens in cricket, and yeah, today, Bangladesh fought really hard till the end and they won the game today but we made a few mistakes and we’ll learn from it and come back stronger.”

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