Melbourne, Dec 26: Talented young Karnataka batsman KL Rahul was today rewarded with a Test debut at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
The 22-year-old right-hand opening batsman became India's 284th Test player, in the third Test against Australia on Friday. Rahul, however, will not bat at his regular opening position in the Boxing Day Test. He is likely to take the number 6 spot.
Captain MS Dhoni handed over the Test cap to Rahul as his team-mates applauded before start of play. Rahul replaced Rohit Sharma in the playing XI. The soft-spoken boy, who started his cricket career at the age of 11, has been selected in the team after a string of successes in the Ranji Trophy last season.
He was the 2nd highest run-getter in 2013-14 Ranji Trophy with 1,158 runs at an average of over 50. His batting was one of the reasons for Karnataka winning the title.
However, the turning point of his career was the Duleep Trophy final last month where he hit (185 and 130) in both innings for South Zone against Central Zone. With the selectors watching that game in Delhi, Rahul impressed them and won a place in the Test team.
Rahul started playing the game with tennis ball, in Mangalore at the age of 11. His cricket journey began at the Dakshin Kannada Cricket Association's Nehru Maidan in Mangalore under his first coach Samuel Jayaraj.
At the age of 17, Rahul moved to Bangalore and in 5 years time he is wearing India cap. He was part of India Under-19 World Cup squad in 2010. The same year, he made his first-class debut for Karnataka against Punjab.
"Rahul started playing cricket at the age of 11. He was good at both studies and cricket. He played volleyball, hockey, football at school but cricket was his priority," Rahul's father Dr Lokesh told OneIndia.
Rahul played in Under-13, 15, 17, 19 and 23 age groups in Karnataka and made it to the Ranji Trophy squad. The right-hander's ability to score big was on display very early when he hit 2 double centuries in Karnataka State Cricket Association's (KSCA) Under-13 Inter-zonal tournament.
Dr Lokesh is a professor in Geology at National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK), Surathkal (about 20kms from Mangalore). Rahul's mother Rajeshwari is also a professor, in history, at Mangalore University.
Dr Lokesh, who is a fan of Sunil Gavaskar, named his son Rahul thinking it was junior Gavaskar's name. However, he realised later it was Rohan Gavaskar, not Rahul. But it was too late for Dr Lokesh to change.
Former India captain Rahul Dravid has been impressed with Rahul's technique and has guided the youngster. Rahul idolises Dravid.
Watching Rahul bat, many have started comparisons with "The Wall" Dravid. "I when I am compared with him. As a child, I used to watch a lot of his batting and also Sachin's (Tendulkar). But It would be great if I can score the amount of runs Dravid has scored," Rahul had said.
Having played with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and now Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Rahul has learnt a lot from Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers (both RCB), Dale Steyn (SRH) and other international cricketers during IPL.
Kannaur Lokesh Rahul