When Australia took on India in the SCG Test in 2015, the immensely talented KL Rahul gave a glimpse of his Test match credentials with a brilliant 110 off 262 balls. The opener was standing tall at the crease, employing the V-grip and playing late - the kind of game that seemed tailor-made for the longest format of the game.
However, in about 12 months' time, Rahul was ready to show that he was a versatile batsman, who could also make a mark in T20 cricket. The opener accumulated 397 runs at a strike rate of a tad more than 146 in the IPL. Rahul 2.0 using a strong bottom-handed grip to play through the line was a different batsman to the one who wore Australia down at the SCG in 2015.
Since then he has gone on to play for the country in limited-overs formats and also found some success. However, with India having a settled opening pair - Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma - Rahul has struggled to nail down his spot in the shorter formats of the game. He has also batted at different positions in the order, making it difficult for him to stamp his authority.
In the ongoing ODI series between India and Australia, Rahul batted at number three in the first ODI before being asked to play the role of a finisher in Rajkot. This was a new challenge thrown at Rahul; the right-hander had played just once at a slot lower than the number four position in ODIs before the Rajkot game. Just that Rahul once again showed that he was a versatile batsman, finishing with a breezy 52-ball 80 to pilot his side to a match-winning - and series-levelling - total.
Here was a batsman who was ready to clear his front leg to thump Adam Zampa straight down the ground. And the audacity to loft one of the finest white-ball bowlers of this generation, Mitchell Starc, over deep extra cover for a six. The way Rahul went through the gears also opened up a possibility of him becoming the new 'finisher' in ODIs. In the recent past, India's middle and lower-order batsmen have tended to struggle against hard lengths, but the Karnataka batsman has the ability to take on hit-the-deck pacers.
"Look I have always opened the batting. That is the position, order I am most comfortable with, and I know how to build my innings. But I get to learn so much about my skills about my batting... batting as an art when I get the chance to bat at 3 or 4 or 5," Rahul said in the post-match press conference. "I'm kind of enjoying it (batting at different positions), I'm finding new ways to counter bowlers, new ways to handle situations. I don't look at it as pressure, something like an opportunity and I will try to play it the best I can," he added.
Rahul also said that he watched videos and spoke to some of the contemporary middle-order batsman to fine-tune his game "I just spoke a lot more to middle order batsmen. I watched a lot of videos, I spoke a lot to Virat, watched a lot of videos of AB or Steve Smith for the matter on how they build their innings. Kane Williamson, who I have tried to go back and watch some of his videos to see how they build their innings, and how they play in certain situations. Only thing I have tried is how to be better in certain situations. And reading of the game has got a lot better now that I have played in different positions."
Rahul also observed that the think-tank's plans were crystal clear in the slog overs - try to collect as many boundaries and get to a score of around 330. "Plans were very clear, last five overs try to score as many runs as you can. You do lose wickets in the last 10 overs because you look to get as many runs as you can. We knew that we had to get anywhere between 320 and 330. Losing Virat didn't really change our plans, Jadeja came in, the plans stayed the same through, hit as many boundaries as you can. And if you can't get the boundaries, try to get twos."
With Rishabh Pant ruled out of the game due to concussion, Rahul also had the uphill task of keeping wickets to a versatile attack. However, the unassuming cricketer did an admirable job behind the stumps, showing decent glove work even while keeping wickets to India's pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah. Match Tips
"Jasprit, I always felt when I used to bat against him in the IPL, I felt like the best place to be against Jasprit is behind the stumps. But now that I have to keep wickets, it is still hard. The way he bowls, swinging the ball both here and at the Wankhede, there is a bit of a wobble. For somebody who isn't a regular keeper, that can be pretty hard, we have seen even for regular keepers, he is a nightmare to keep. But I am enjoying it. Try to read the situation and try to do the best for the team."