Ishan Kishan has indeed been the favored choice as India's wicketkeeper in limited-overs matches this year. Nonetheless, it is abundantly clear that he cannot assume his position is secure, especially with KL Rahul's exceptional performance following his return from injury during the Asia Cup.
Kishan seemed to be the go-to option for wicketkeeping responsibilities, not only due to his impressive record of scoring four half-centuries in his last five one-day innings but also for the valuable left-handed batting dimension he brings to a predominantly right-handed lineup.
Rahul's first two innings since recovering from a thigh injury have solidified his standing as a contender, presenting a delightful selection dilemma, as foreseen by chief selector Ajit Agarkar when both players were included in the World Cup squad.
Rahul had just five minutes to prepare for the high-stakes Asia Cup match against Pakistan, following Shreyas Iyer's last-minute withdrawal due to a back spasm. However, in his comeback game, he struck an unbeaten 111 and masterminded an impressive partnership with fellow centurion Virat Kohli, setting the stage for India's comprehensive victory over their arch-rivals.
The stylish right-handed batsman also played a pivotal role in another significant partnership, this time alongside Kishan, in the low-scoring encounter against hosts Sri Lanka on Tuesday, which India won by 41 runs. Moreover, Rahul took up wicketkeeping duties for a substantial portion of both the Pakistan and Sri Lankan innings, demonstrating his versatility within the team.
"I have been keeping wickets for quite some time now, actually more than two years," Rahul informed the reporters, expressing his comfort with the dual role. "So it's not a new role for me, and the team management has conveyed that this will be my role in the squad - to bat in the middle order and keep wickets."
Primarily known as a versatile batter who can adapt to any position in the top and middle order, Rahul shared that he dedicated time to refining his wicketkeeping skills during his rehabilitation from injury. "During my recovery, I focused on both aspects," the 31-year-old explained. "Previously, my emphasis was primarily on my batting, but this time around, I had ample time to work on my wicketkeeping. Hopefully, I can execute both roles effectively."
India, having reached the Asia Cup final, will commence their quest for a third ODI World Cup title when they face Australia in Chennai on October 8th.