KL Rahul impressed one and all with his exploits in the just-concluded Asia Cup 2023, which India won by thrashing Sri Lanka in the final on Sunday (September 17).
The wicketkeeper-batter missed the group stages of Asia Cup 2023 due to a niggle he picked up during his rehabilitation after a long injury layoff at the NCA in Bengaluru.
Rahul got an opportunity in the XI in the Super 4 match against Pakistan after Shreyas Iyer sustained a back spasm minutes before the toss.
As it turned out, Rahul grabbed the chance with both hands. He smashed a dazzling century (111* off 106 balls) batting at No. 4 against the arch-rivals and also donned the keeping gloves to dismiss the concerns around his match fitness.
The right-hander also played a crucial knock of 39 on a turning track against Sri Lanka in Super 4s and scored 19 versus Bangladesh.
Impressed with his exploits, batting legend Sunil Gavaskar said KL Rahul ticked all the boxes and put all the questions about his match fitness to rest.
"Very, very good to see him fit. We all knew what his quality is. He has proven it over such a long time. The only question mark would have been about his fitness and in that century knock against Pakistan, he showed his fitness because it was not just a question of playing a long innings, but also running between the wickets. And who are you running with? Probably the fastest runner in the game between 22 yards, Virat Kohli. He did that so well. And later on came and kept wickets for a major part. That 100 percent proves his fitness," Gavaskar quoted as saying by India Today.
Gavaskar also added that Rahul should continue playing with the attitude that he displayed in the game against Pakistan.
"The most important thing was the self-belief he showed in that particular century. Often, I have always said... I have said about him way back in 2016 or 17 that he is going to be the next big thing in Indian cricket. If he hasn't, he himself has to be blamed because I don't think he actually realises how good a player he is.
"Sometimes, when he is batting, when is on the field, he gives the impression that he is not very confident about himself. On the field, you want that confidence to come through. You saw that confidence in that Pakistan innings. He got to play like that every time. He does sometimes play like that in the IPL. But now to see him bat the way that he did was absolutely wonderful.
"He now gives so much bulk to the middle-order. He, Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya are absolutely unbelievable. This is turning out be a very, very good Indian team," he remarked.
Sunil Gavaskar also opined that Ishan Kishan has sealed his place in the middle-order after the Asia Cup 2023 campaign.
The southpaw has been in terrific form lately. Kishan opened the batting and slammed three successive half-centuries in the ODI series against West Indies in July-August, while he produced a stunning knock of 81-ball 82 at No. 5 in India’s Asia Cup opener against Pakistan in Pallekele on September 2.
"Definitely (sealed his spot in middle-order), also gives you a left-handed option in the middle. India don't have a left-hander at the top 4 and then Hardik Pandya. Ishan Kishan at No. 5 makes a lot of sense," Gavaskar told India Today.
"This is the beauty of being an opening batter. An opening bat can also slot himself down in the middle-order. It's not easy the other way around. Ishan Kishan has shown, particularly with the way he kept his composure, the way he handled against Pakistan and got those 80-odd runs shows that he is not somebody who likes to go out and play his shots but he is somebody who applies his mind, reads the situation and plays accordingly," he added.