Centurion, Dec 24: Ahead of India’s Test series opener against South Africa, one question which has kept everyone guessing is who will occupy the wicketkeeper slot. With Ishan Kishan pulling out of the series due to personal reasons, head coach Rahul Dravid has seemingly all but confirmed that KL Rahul could be the wicketkeeper when the Boxing Day Test starts on December 26 at SuperSport Park.
“It’s an exciting challenge and it’s an opportunity for him to certainly do something different. Obviously, with Ishan (Kishan) not being available, the opportunity came up. We have a couple of keepers we can choose from. Rahul is certainly one. We have had this discussion with him and he’s very confident. He’s very keen on giving it a go,” said Dravid in the pre-series press conference.
If Rahul indeed dons the gloves for the first Test, then it will be just the second time he would be the wicketkeeper in a first-class match. India also have a wicketkeeper-batter in KS Bharat, who played five Tests this year, but as per Dravid’s words, Rahul could be donning the keeping gloves at Centurion.
Dravid also pointed towards Rahul doing keeping duties with aplomb in ODI cricket recently, which gives the team think-tank confidence of him to replicate the same success with the gloves in Test cricket. “We do understand that it’s not probably something he has done as often. He’s been doing it regularly in 50-overs cricket. So, that’s certainly tough to play 50 overs and then bat in a full day; that can take a lot out of your body.”
“He has prepared well, over the last 5-6 months he has done a lot of keeping, even though it’s in the white ball format. But this will be a new and exciting challenge for him as well. I guess one other thing here is that there’s not going to be that much of spin bowling.”
“Probably more pace bowling here than spin, so it will ease him into that role a little bit. But we’ll see how it pans out. It’s nice for us to have someone like him and the options that he provides us. His ability with the bat will be something that will be really useful and let’s see how it goes with the gloves. He’s kept really well in one-day cricket. It’s just a question of transferring that to red ball cricket for long.”
December 26 will also mark the start of India’s quest for a first ever Test series victory in South Africa, a country where they have come very close to winning one, only to fall agonisingly short. In 2021/22, they had a 1-0 lead in the three-game series, only to squander it and lose the series 2-1.
With this series being only of two games, India can’t afford to have a slip-up in their wish to conquer their final frontier in Test cricket. “We have been touring South Africa since 1992 and have played really good cricket here too. We have won Test matches here, played some draws, but we are yet to win a series here.”
“There were one-two Tests where we felt a chance was there to win, but couldn’t do so. With this series being very short, there will be very little time to bounce back if we don’t start the series well.”
“But we will try to pay very well in the full series, though we did well in patches in the past. It does give us some confidence that we can win in conditions like this and play good cricket. The endeavour will be to play very well in both Tests and hopefully win the series,” added Dravid.
India is playing Tests after five months and Dravid thinks the variable bounce as well as preventing wickets from falling in heaps will be the factors for his batters to counter if they are to post big runs and get those crucial World Test Championship points.
“Of late, we have noticed that there is a lot of bounce and seam movement, which makes it a little tough for batting. There are result-oriented wickets, which means that if you don’t fare well in one passage of play, then you are pushed back in the match. Even if you lose a session, it shouldn’t be lost in a very bad manner.”