With India all set to face Australia in ODIs from Friday at the Wankhede Stadium, it also means the restart of the preparations for the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup.
As India gets back to the 50-over fold after winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy Test series 2-1, it is likely that K.L Rahul will be back in the playing eleven as a wicketkeeper-batter, apart from being the number five batter, a role where he’s had plenty of success in last few years.
India’s fielding coach T Dilip also hinted at the same, citing the balance Rahul brings to the playing eleven in ODIs. “We all know that KL Rahul is a wonderful player. He has a proven record. Even in ODIs, in the middle-order, he has proven enough as a batter. As a wicketkeeper, he gets a lot of balance into the team.”
“Since he is not someone who has picked the gloves just now — he has been doing that since a younger age – he adds a lot of things. Not much difficult to work on his wicketkeeping skills, apart from refining a few aspects,” he said in the pre-series press conference.
Dilip, who has been India’s fielding coach after R Sridhar moved on post the 2021 Men’s T20 World Cup, stated that improvements in fielding will continue to happen. “There are certain areas where we have certainly improved over a period of time. If you look at the number of direct-hit percentages in the (2022 T20) World Cup and that one direct hit from KL Rahul changed the course of the match.”
“That’s something we are looking at as a group and if you look at the overall ratio, even if there are no runouts, the number of times we have hit the stumps has improved a bit. That’s one area we will keep improving.”
Dilip has been part of the NCA setup and accompanied the Indian team for the white-ball tour of Sri Lanka in July 2021. He had worked with the Hyderabad Ranji team, India A, and junior teams for over 15 years.
“If you look at the last T20 World Cup, we had three wicketkeepers who played. That’s been a trend. If you see all the wicketkeeper-batters that are coming up in the lines, they have been fantastic batters too. That adds to the balance (of the team).”
“As a fielding coach, my responsibility is not only to work on their wicketkeeping skills, but also work on their fielding skills, so that whatever role the team requires according to the combination on that particular day, they are well equipped for that,” he added.
With all-rounder Hardik Pandya set to captain India in the first ODI as Rohit Sharma is unavailable due to personal reasons, Dilip thinks he can do the leadership job well in 50-over cricket after leading the team in various T20Is.
“When it comes to Hardik Pandya, he is the captain now officially. But he has been in our leadership group for all these matches and he’s already proven in T20s what he can bring to the table as a captain.”
“Irrespective of that, even if Rohit is the captain, he is part of our leadership group, and he adds a lot of value to the team. Not only you, but we all are also looking forward to him. He’s well-equipped to do it.”
Dilip signed off by saying the intensity that senior players like Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja bring while being excellent fielders is something that can have a good effect on the youngsters in the team.
“They (Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja) have proven over a period of time, they have been role models and examples in terms of what they can contribute in fielding. Players do look up to them. What special I see as a coach when they come to practice is the intensity. Even after proving themselves, they carry that intensity, which definitely rubs on to the youngsters.”