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Will KL Rahul be the next Dravid?

Last updated on: September 02, 2013 12:18 IST

Will KL Rahul be the next Dravid?

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Karnataka batsman KL Rahul could be the next big thing in Indian cricket. The 21-year-old has the ability to grind it out in the middle and play big knocks in the longer format of the game, says Harish Kotian 

Not every day does a young batsman come along and make everyone sit up and take notice of his talents.

KL Rahul has done just that. The 21-year-old from Karnataka has not only captured the attention of eminent coaches in his state, but even the great Rahul Dravid.

"He is a talented young batsman, one among the few we have in Karnataka at the moment. He is scoring runs, which is a good thing; the key for someone like him is to keep scoring runs this season, especially in Ranji Trophy.

"This upcoming season will be big for him. He looks very good and has scored a lot of runs. He did well in the one-day tournament, the Deodhar Trophy, last year," Dravid told rediff.com.


Image: KL Rahul
Photographs: Asian Cricket Council/Facebook

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Indeed, Rahul, who hails from Mangalore, stands out among his peers because of his ability to grind it out in the middle and play big knocks in the longer format of the game, a rare quality in the times of T20 cricket.

At the same time, he also has the gumption to attack the bowlers in the shorter version of the game, as was witnessed in the national T20 tournament last season.

Thus, it is not surprising that he is being talked about in the same vein as 'The Wall'. Just like Dravid, he spends long hours in the nets honing his skills, paying special attention to getting his technique right.

Rahul recently gave a good account of himself, scoring three half-centuries in difficult conditions, including a match-winning 93 not out against Pakistan in the final of the Under-23 Asia Cup in Singapore.

But it was in last season's Ranji Trophy that he gave indications of what he had in store. Playing his first season for Karnataka, he amassed 400 runs in five matches, at an average of 50. He then proved his versatility, hitting 403 runs in seven matches, at an average of 67, including two centuries and two fifties, in the Vijay Hazare Trophy ODI tournament.

He was equally impressive in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the national T20 tournament, scoring 250 runs in nine games, at an average of 35, including three fifties.


Image: KL Rahul
Photographs: Asian Cricket Council/Facebook

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Ask the young right-hander what he feels about being labelled the next Rahul Dravid, and he is quick to point out his potential will count for nothing if he doesn't keep scoring runs consistently.

"It is a very happy feeling that a legend like Rahul Dravid talks highly about me. But I can't just sit back and be happy about it. I have to back it up with my performances. It also adds a little bit of pressure when they expect so much from you and think you are the next Rahul Dravid," he says.

"It is not just about looking good. I also have to work on matching it up with Dravid's big stature; I  have to perform and get as many runs as he used to."

Rahul is keen to pursue Dravid's principles of keeping his batting simple and working hard in the nets.

"Just to see him the way he practices and the kind of work ethics he follows despite achieving so much is a great learning experience. As a person, too, he is so humble. He is a legend, and that in itself is a big inspiration for all of us in Karnataka who play with him," he adds.


Image: KL Rahul
Photographs: Asian Cricket Council/Facebook

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Before travelling to Singapore for the Under-23 Asia Cup, Rahul was guilty of failing to covert starts on many occasions. However, he made sure that he did not throw away his wicket in the tournament and played big knocks on difficult wickets, which proved quite crucial in India's triumph.

"That's the kind of challenge I like as a player and that is the kind of person I am. I like it when the conditions are trying and your skills are tested. As a cricketer, or any sportsperson for that matter, you like yourself to be tested and get better all the time. I am very happy that I stuck it out there and performed well.

"I was not happy at one point because I was not converting my starts, but, eventually, at the end of the day, I am glad that I did well and we won the tournament," he said.

People who have known Rahul for many years say the best part about the lad is that he is mentally very tough and doesn't get fazed in pressure situations.

"I don't know whether I am mentally tough or not, but one thing I know is that I like the game and spend as much time as possible on it. I am not someone who likes to be in the dressing room and waste time; I like to be on the field all the time and be counted. That is how I am.

"I think a lot of credit goes to my coaches and my parents... for the values they have instilled in me, bringing me up in this way. They have taught me that every game is different and I can't rely on my past performances. I have to go out and play each game as my last game; that is what I do. I only hope that I continue in the same way."

Rahul knows well that the upcoming Ranji Trophy season is going to be vital for him.

"I am not setting any targets or numbers for myself. I just want to enjoy my game and my batting, work hard and prepare in such a way that if you encounter any kind of conditions or obstacles you should be skilled enough to overcome it and do well. That is the only thing I have in my mind.

"I want to use every opportunity and perform in any given circumstances. The conditions are tough and the competition is very high in the Ranji Trophy, but I enjoy it and take it as a challenge. I hope I keep getting better, be more consistent and keep performing for my state and my country."


Image: KL Rahul
Photographs: Asian Cricket Council/Facebook

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Former India batsman and Karnataka coach Vijay Bharadwaj believes Rahul will make the Test team in a couple of years.

"We all believe he will be the next Test cricketer from Karnataka. The kind of opportunities he is getting right now, I think it is the right time. If he can make it count I will be very happy for him," he says.

Bharadwaj, who played three Tests and 10 ODIs, adds: "He has got the potential to become the next Rahul Dravid of India. Probably, he is the only cricketer from Karnataka who has got the temperament right now, even though there are a lot of other batsmen around. It is too early compare to compare KL Rahul with Rahul Dravid, but I feel he has got the potential; converting potential to performance is up to him. He has a shrewd, very well-balanced, mature brain on his shoulders, and that is exactly the reason I am saying this."


Image: KL Rahul
Photographs: Asian Cricket Council/Facebook

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Karnataka batting coach J Arun Kumar revealed that Dravid had told him a couple of years back that this youngster is the guy to watch out for.

"Dravid follows the progress of all the youngsters in Karnataka cricket. I remember him telling me nearly two-three years back that KL Rahul is definitely one to watch out for," he said.

Rahul, says Arun Kumar, impressed straightaway in his debut Ranji season last year and even the opposition bowlers were awestruck.

"He made his debut last year, but it looked as if he has been playing for a few years. The way he played and the maturity he showed, he was just relaxed in the dressing room. He looked like a pro; he knew what he was doing.

"I spoke to a lot of bowlers in the opposition camp and they asked me, 'Kab se khel raha hai yeh?' (since when is he playing?). That was the first question on everyone's mind, because people thought he had been playing for a long time.

"I think he is ready to play for Indian team. He is a very good package; a brilliant batsman and very good fielder," added Arun Kumar, who has played 109 first class matches, and was one of the key players for Karnataka during a long career spanning from 1993-94 to 2008.

Having worked on his batting closely, Arun Kumar pointed out that, technically, Rahul is far more superior compared to other batsmen his age.

"This guy has always been good with his technique, because he has always been a big fan of Rahul Dravid. He has modified his technique and his game; he can play a lot of shots also. He is a blend of someone who can play a lot of strokes. When it comes to defence he is very solid and can play spin very well. I think what separates him from the others is that he is mentally very tough and has the patience to play the big innings.

"When it comes to scoring quick, he has got all the shots; his timing is impeccable. I think, mentally, he is a lot tougher than the other guys I have seen," he said.


Image: KL Rahul
Photographs: Asian Cricket Council/Facebook

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Even India's under-23 team coach Mukund Parmar is all praise for Rahul.

"Rahul is a brilliant player. He was the best player with the bat for us throughout the tournament. I think he is a good package overall; he has all the requisites to be a very good batsman across all formats.

"In Singapore, the pitches were not easy for scoring, but Rahul put his hand up and took responsibility to stay at the wicket at one end. I believe he has 100 percent potential to make it big in the next few years," he said.

India fast bowler and Karnataka captain R Vinay Kumar also echoed the same view while pointing out that Rahul's batting has undergone a drastic change in the last couple of years.

"He has very good potential and can make it big with the kind of game he has. His batting is suited to all formats; whether it is the longer format or T20s, he looks very comfortable. I have noticed that his batting is more mature than it was two years back; he has improved a lot. He works hard in the nets and there is no doubt he can achieve big things," he said.

For Rahul, this is just the start of a long and arduous journey. While performing well in age-group cricket is definitely commendable, consistency in the Ranji Trophy will be the best way to impress the national selectors.


Image: KL Rahul
Photographs: Asian Cricket Council/Facebook

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