Since Rishabh Pant’s unfortunate accident, India’s red-ball unit has gravely suffered for an able replacement. While the management first trusted KS Bharat for his abilities behind the sticks, Ishan Kishan got the nod due to his batting ability.
However, Kishan's withdrawal from the squad for the two-match Test series has forced India to take a bold decision. India’s head coach, Rahul Dravid, all but confirmed that 31-year-old KL Rahul will don the gloves for the two-match Test series starting December 26 (Tuesday) at the SuperSport Park Cricket Stadium.
“It's an exciting challenge. It's an opportunity for him (Rahul) to do something different. With Ishan unavailable, we had a couple of keepers to choose from. Rahul is very confident about giving it a go. We understand that he hasn't done that quite often (in longest format), but he has done it in fifty overs, and even that is tough,” Dravid said in the pre-match press conference.
In the absence of senior pros Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, Rahul led the relatively inexperienced Indian side to a 2-1 win against South Africa in the three-match ODI series. Dravid pointed out that Rahul has kept a lot over the last five-six months, which has convinced the management that he is the right fit.
“He (Rahul) has done a lot of keeping in the past five-six months. One of the things here is that there is more pace bowling than spin, which will ease him into the role. We will see how it goes. It is nice to have someone like him, someone who has the ability with the bat and keep,” Dravid added.
Prior to the two-match Test series, the 31-year-old Rahul himself was pretty confident of donning the gloves in the longest format, stating that he was there with the team irrespective of where and how he got to bat.
"I've always been open to doing new roles and accepting whatever role the team wants me to perform," Rahul said. "So I'm happy to do whatever the management, coach and captain ask of me. If that's the role the team sees me in, I'm happy to do that," KL Rahul said back then.
"It's a cliched line, but as you play more you understand no position is yours. But as you play more, you understand when it's a team game no position is yours. You have to be able to perform whatever the team requires. You have to be flexible, and adjust and do your best for the team."
Dravid also brushed aside suggestions of his team needing 'extra' motivation coming into the Boxing Day Test. While stating that, Dravid insisted that his management believes in creating the right environment for the team to succeed in tough conditions.
"I don't think you need to motivate players to play for India. I don't think any of our players are lacking in motivation. Coming to play in South Africa, representing your country, playing Test cricket here with an opportunity to play some very good cricket, I don't think anyone is lacking in motivation. I did not have to motivate anyone.
"I don't believe in motivating my players, I believe in creating the right environment, ensuring the right processes, ensure we practice well, tick all the boxes physically, mentally and tactically. That's really my job as a coach; giving the players the best chance to succeed. There are really some motivated guys out there in the team," he added.