Kannaur Lokesh Rahul, all of 22-years-old, has taken Indian domestic cricket by storm. The stylish right-handed opening batsman from Bangalore slammed twin tons for South Zone in the Duleep Trophy final against Central, sending out a timely reminder to the national selectors ahead of the Australian tour.
On Monday, when the national selectors met to pick the squad for the four Test matches in Australia, Rahul was almost an automatic choice as the reserve opener. It was an apt reward for a man who was the second-highest run scorer in 2013-14, with 1158 runs at 52.63. Rahul played crucial knocks as Karnataka won the Ranji Trophy title this season. (Dhoni to Miss First Test in Australia, Kohli to Lead)
Rahul has been striking the right chords for four years since making his first-class debut. He averages an impressive 51.21, having amassed 2100 runs from 27 matches. The icing on the cake were his two innings in the Duleep final at Feroz Shah Kotla as national selectors Vikram Rathour and Saba Karim watched from the stands. Rahul immediately got a thumbs up from his namesake, Rahul Dravid, who wanted the youngster in the India Test squad as the third opener.
Up against the likes of Pankaj Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Piyush Chawla and Jalaj Saxena, Rahul slammed 185 and 130 to rightfully stake a claim in the Indian side for what will undoubtedly be a tough tour.
The Bangalore lad had to fight off stiff competition from his Karnataka teammate Robin Uthappa, who has also had a productive year. (In Dhoni's Absence, Saha and Ojha Vie for Wicketkeeping Slots)
Dravid had watched Rahul come up the ranks closely. The former India captain has spoken highly of Karnataka's latest run-machine and felt he deserved a break in the Indian team, especially on the tough Aussie tour. Much like Dravid, Rahul likes to build his innings. (Rohit Sharma Makes ODI Comeback)
The comparisons with Dravid after his consistent performances, especially over the last season, were inevitable. Rahul rattled up over 1000 runs and showed time and again his ability to wage lonely wars, even as his more experienced state mates struggled.
Like Dravid said, Rahul might well be the back-up opener throughout the tour but it could still be a huge learning curve for one of the most talented young batsmen to have emerged from India's domestic circuit.
And if Rahul does get a chance in Australia, it will be test of his resilience and technique against one of the most potent pace attacks in the world. Runs against Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle on bouncy Aussie tracks will do his confidence and Indian cricket a world of good.