For just the second time in his brief ODI career, KL Rahul walked in to bat at number five in the batting line-up in the Rajkot ODI.
"Batting at 5, I wanted to give myself a few balls, you know what the wicket is doing and Virat said that it's coming on nicely," Rahul said in the post-match presentation ceremony.
Once settled down, Rahul unfurled his shots and propelled India to a pretty good total on a wicket where Ravichandran Ashwin expressed, on social media, that a road roller might have been used.
Rahul finished on a 52-ball 80, an innings studded with three sixes and six fours. In an Indian innings where no batsman scored at over a strike rate of 110 despite the flat nature of the wicket, Rahul's breathtaking strike-rate of 153.85 was a refreshing, much-needed innings for India.
What it also brought to the fore was the new role for Rahul in the side. With Rishabh Pant injured and the back-up keepers with the India A team in New Zealand, Rahul was the keeper in the side.
Keeping at international level is a fairly new job for Rahul as is batting at number five But it isn't like he has been allowed to play one role in the team. First used as a back-up opener, Rahul was pushed into the number four role before being used again at the top during the World Cup.
Kohli recently said that Rahul would be the back-up opener in the side as that's the role that fits him. Yet, he started this series at number three below the regular openers Dhawan and Rohit.
Now, with him shining at number five and as a keeper you'd hope he can test Rishabh Pant's comfort zone in ODIs. But alas, that's not how Rahul's career has panned out so far and it's unlikely that this path would deviate anytime soon.
At Rajkot, both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma suffered injuries and it's likely that one of them at least might miss the final ODI at Bengaluru. If that's the case, Rahul might well be called upon as the back-up opener and will have to switch back up the order and also keep wickets.
"Each day I've been thrown different roles and responsibilities and I'm enjoying it for now," Rahul said in the post-match presentation ceremony.
It is testament to the talent of KL Rahul that despite India's constant meddling with his position in the team and his role in the side he continues to excel. What a brilliant player. #INDvAUS— Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) January 17, 2020
For now, he has fulfilled a lot of back-up roles in the side and coped an unfair amount of criticism. Maybe, just maybe, it's time to see him as a regular in the side and give him a well-defined role to get the best out of him.
Feature image courtesy: AFP/ Jewel Samad