KL Rahul is the part of the India squad for the upcoming ICC ODI World Cup, starting October 5. India will kick off their campaign in the mega event on October 8 against Australia in Chennai.
Saba lauded Rahul’s recent performances, particularly noting his return to the squad following an injury layoff, which has provided the team with a much-needed sense of balance. The former keeper praised KL Rahul’s proficiency in dealing with spin bowling. In the subcontinent, where spinners play a pivotal role, Rahul’s confidence in handling spin could well be a key factor in India’s WC campaign at home.
KL Rahul (PTI Photo)
In the recently concluded Asia Cup, KL Rahul was at his majestic best, scoring 169 runs in 4 matches at an average of 84.50. He also scored a brilliant 111 against arch-rivals Pakistan.
In addition to his support for Rahul, Saba acknowledged the undeniable talent of Sanju Samson. He suggests that Samson, who missed out on a World Cup spot and an Asian Games berth, should wait for his turn and seize opportunities as and when they come his way.
TimesofIndia.com caught up with the former India wicket-keeper, who played 1 Test and 34 ODIs for India between 1997 and 2000, to talk about KL Rahul the wicketkeeper-batsman, Sanju’s exclusion, Ruturaj Gaikwad as a future India captaincy prospect and much more…
Ruturaj Gaikwad has been given captaincy duties in the Asian Games. Do you think selectors and management are looking at him as a long-term captaincy prospect? Do you think he can be an all-format captain in the future?
The moment you pick a youngster like Ruturaj Gaikwad as captain it means that the selectors, maybe not now, but two or three years down the line are looking at him like that. Right now, Ruturaj Gaikwad is singled out as a player who can play all three formats. He has done that as well for his state Maharashtra. He has shown some very good leadership qualities while leading Maharashtra in the domestic matches that were held last season. That is why selectors have chosen him to lead the side because the rest of the players are all youngsters and I don’t think all of them have led their state side. So, this is a perfect opportunity for Ruturaj as well as the selectors to have a closer look at him in terms of leadership qualities.
India have been looking for a quality left-handed all-rounder since the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina retired. Who will be your pick to fill that void in the future – Tilak Varma or Shivam Dube or someone else and why?
Tilak Varma and Shivam Dube have a different dimension altogether. Tilak comes in at 3 or 4 and can bowl handy off-spin which he has done in the recent past. But more than Tilak and Shivam, I look at Rinku Singh. I look at Rinku Singh as a middle-order batsman. Although he doesn’t roll his arm over. Shivam comes in at 6 or 7. So, I think selectors have created a profile for both these players – Tilak Varma and Shivam Dube. Tilak is a top-order batsman who can bowl right-arm off-spin. Shivam is a left-handed power-hitting batsman who comes in at 5, 6, or maybe 7 and who can bowl right arm medium pace. Their roles are pretty well defined. There is a huge difference between these two profiles.
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Indian cricket has seen a dearth of quality left-arm fast bowlers who can cement their place in the side of late. Is Arshdeep the answer?
Not only Arshdeep. Arshdeep has been promising, but there is still so much to learn for him. There are a number of other left-arm seamers in the domestic circuit who have done really well. Khaleel Ahmed is another left-arm pacer. And we have seen Chetan Sakaria who is another left-arm seamer. There are a number of left-arm seam bowlers in the domestic circuit who are kind of (in the) reckoning for a national call-up. Yes, Arshdeep is right now at the forefront but there are other left-arm seam bowlers who are also in the mix in terms of selection.
How much is Rishabh Pant’s absence hurting the Indian team right now, according to you?
That’s kind of uncontrollable. Because of injury, Rishabh has been missing out. But having said that, I don’t think in the recent past, Rishabh Pant was part of the one-day setup or white-ball setup for India. But I do believe Rishabh had the right kind of talent to come back into the side and he can always be a different all-format player. Rishabh brings in a different kind of energy altogether on the field and he is one match-winner who was unearthed after so many years. It is unfortunate that Rishabh is missing out, but we do have a capable replacement who should do the job for India.
Sanju Samson isn’t part of the World Cup squad despite averaging 55 plus in ODIs. Should Sanju have been the part of the Asian Games squad?
That’s a tricky one. Sanju Samson was kind of touted as a replacement for KL Rahul if he’s not fit for the World Cup squad. But the moment KL Rahul got the nod in terms of his fitness, that is one reason Sanju Samson is not part of the side. The reason why Sanju Samson is not part of the Asian Games is that once the selectors had to announce the side, the Asian Games side, much before, maybe a month before the Asian Games. At that point in time, Sanju Samson was still in the loop in terms of getting picked for the national side. This is rather unfortunate Sanju has missed out on not being part of this Asian game squad and I hope that the selectors would have conveyed this message to Sanju Samson because if you are part of the Indian setup, you would expect to be part of this Asian game side also. I hope things work out well for him. But he has immense talent, he has a lot of potential and I hope in the future Sanju Samson will get a look in again.
Your take on KL Rahul the wicketkeeper and KL Rahul the batter. Do you think Ishan should keep wickets and KL should be played as a specialist batter in the World Cup?
KL should continue as a wicketkeeper batter. I have always maintained that being an all-rounder helps you to grow as a person and helps you to grow as a cricketer. And I see that happening with KL Rahul. With the gloves behind the stumps, he’s been flawless and it has helped his batting also to blossom. Both of his skills complement each other. The way KL Rahul batted against Pakistan, after such a long layoff, was wonderful to watch. He brings in a lot of stability in the middle order. Against top quality attack, you expect KL Rahul to do well. He is equally good against spin bowling. He uses his feet very well. He has a number of shots that he can execute during the middle overs, plus his confidence has grown as a wicketkeeper. I believe that he should continue as the wicketkeeper batter for India.
You can watch Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games LIVE on the Sony Sports Network