WELLINGTON (Reuters) - KL Rahul’s strong run of form in New Zealand, capped on Tuesday with his fourth one-day international century, has not only repaid the faith of captain Virat Kohli but will also likely ensure him a much longer run in India’s limited overs team.
Rahul rounded off his superb contribution during the limited overs portion of the tour with his century, which he brought up from 104 deliveries, in the third and final match at Bay Oval in Mt. Maunganui.
The 27-year-old wicketkeeper/batsman was dismissed for 112 in India’s innings of 296-7 as they looked for a morale-boosting victory in the series, having already lost the first two games.
Rahul was the second top-scorer for India in the three-match series with 88 not out, four and 112 to bring up 204 runs at an average of 102. Shreyas Iyer scored 217 runs at 72.33.
Rahul also topped the run scoring for India in the five-match Twenty20 series, which the visitors swept 5-0, with 224 runs at 56 and his form kept exciting young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant out of the team for both formats.
His versatility — he opened in the Twenty20 matches and batted at number five in the 50-over format — allowed India to play an extra batsmen during both series.
Kohli has said they would use the white ball part of their tour to experiment with the Twenty20 World Cup on the horizon in Australia later this year.
Rahul, who replaced Pant in last month’s one-day home series against Australia when the 22-year-old suffered a concussion, was key to those plans, the skipper said before they arrived in New Zealand.
“Him doing well with the gloves has really opened up a scenario for us where it gives us a lot more balance in playing an extra batsman,” Kohli told reporters last month.
“I know there will be a lot said about that ... but the most important thing is what the team requires and the best balance we can create for the side.”
While he was able to count on Rahul and Iyer for the bulk of India’s runs throughout both limited overs series, Kohli, the world’s top-ranked test and ODI batsman, scored just 75 runs at 25 in the one-dayers and 105 runs at 26.25 in the Twenty20 matches.
He normally averages 59.58 in one-dayers and 50.80 in Twenty20s.
The first match of the two-test series starts on Feb. 21 in Wellington. Both Rahul and Iyer will return home before it starts.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford