Australia A in India 2015 July 18, 2015

Rahul eyeing first-class match practice

ESPNcricinfo staff

KL Rahul is looking forward to playing first-class cricket again after a little layoff © PTI

KL Rahul, the 23-year old India batsman, is set to make a comeback to top-flight cricket with the India A team when they play Australia A in two unofficial Tests in Chennai. Despite a century the last time he batted in Test cricket, there are doubts over his standing as first-choice opener.

He had fallen ill prior to the Bangladesh tour in June, and has been shy of match practice in first-class cricket since. Add to that Shikhar Dhawan staking a claim for the opening spot with a breezy 173 against Bangladesh, the next few weeks in Chennai could be crucial for Rahul.

''It was very disappointing to miss out on a Test match, especially when you've just started playing Test cricket. But things like this happen. I'm just looking forward to playing these matches," he said during a media session in Chennai on Saturday. "I haven't been playing a lot of cricket; the last time I played days [first-class] cricket was the Ranji Trophy final. So it's been a while since I've played days cricket so it will be an ideal opportunity.

''The conditions here are tough and it's going to test my fitness. I've been working hard in Bangalore, training with the NCA trainers. So I'm looking forward to this opportunity to get back and scoring runs to the team''

It would help that he will be playing against an Australia A side that has several players who have tasted international cricket. Rahul believed A team cricket was important to a young player's development because it provides an idea of how demanding international cricket can be.

''It's a game of bat and ball in international cricket as well. But there you're playing the best players of their country, they're all professionals and the margin of error is very less. So those are the few things that are different from Indian [domestic] cricket," Rahul said. "The gap is mostly the mental aspect. The pressure and the things you go through mentally and emotionally. Physically, when it comes to playing cricket, there isn't a big difference. I mean when you go abroad you have to play different on different wickets. But that's the challenge as a cricketer.

''When we toured Australia last year in mid-June, that was my first India A tour, and you get a fair idea of the kind of conditions and the kind of pressure you'll have to face when you play international cricket, when you're playing against the best XI from a different country. So the competition is very high. The pressures are different from what we face in India in Ranji Trophy. It just builds the character of a player and gets him fairly ready for international cricket.''

While Rahul was attempting to renew ties with international cricket, Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer is hoping to come good on the promise he showed while playing in the IPL. He was the only uncapped batsman to score 300 runs in IPL 2015. Shreyas has shown pedigree in the longer format as well. He was Mumbai's top-scorer in the Ranji Trophy 2014-15 with 809 runs at 50.56 with two centuries.

''I don't change my cricket,'' Iyer said. ''The only thing that I need to change is my mental skills because from T20 to one-day and Tests, the format is very different. I'm getting used to it. It's not very tough for me because I play on my instincts. Just stick to your basics and process, just keep that right and everything else will follow''

Shreyas thought his promotion to the India A squad was based on his IPL showing and credited the tournament for the exposure it give fledgling players. ''I just went on with the flow. That performance has basically helped me get into the India A team. It's [IPL] a really big platform for a youngster like me because you can just go and explore and you get full freedom from your coaches.''

Rahul, though, was quick to point out that there was more to being selected for India than just performances in IPL and the now defunct Champions League T20.

''It's not the end of the road. There are so many more opportunities, so many more tournaments that we can prove ourselves," Rahul said. "There's Ranji Trophy, we play [domestic] 50-overs and 20-overs cricket and there are a lot of other opportunities to make a mark and come into the selectors radar. [Suspending] CLT20, I don't think will make a difference. It was a great platform for guys to perform. But I'm sure there are more opportunities for teams to do well.''