Is KL Rahul good enough to be India's first-choice opener in limited-overs cricket? Will he get another go at the top even after Shikhar Dhawan recovers from injury? Or will Rahul be a mere Mr. Fix it in the middle order, a role he had briefly played in the 50-over World Cup earlier this year?
On the eve of the ODI series opener against West Indies in Chennai, batting coach Vikram Rathour was even pressed if Rahul could fit into the side as a frontline keeping option. Rathour, ultimately, sidestepped that question.
In a must-win match for India in Visakhapatham, Rahul answered nearly every question that was thrown at him and shut out all the external noise. After he glided to his third ODI hundred - and first at home - Rahul dropped his helmet and bat, then put both his hands on his ears, gesticulating he wanted to stop all the chatter.
Two balls later, Rahul carved fast bowler Alzarri Joseph to third man, and was sent off with a pat on his head from his vice-captain Rohit Sharma and a standing ovation from the crowd. Captain Virat Kohli was also impressed in the dressing room, so much that he raised his own bat by the time Rahul raised his after reaching the landmark.
When you are batting with Sharma, you are often the sidekick, but on Wednesday Rahul was the lead for most part of the 227-run opening partnership.
Jason Holder had settled into splice-jarring lengths with the new ball and on top of it extracted extra bounce to test Sharma. Joseph then got the ball to seam away sharply like a fast legcutter, threatening Sharma's outside edge.
Soon, Sharma got going with a shovel-pull for six over fine leg. However, he got stuck again, on 40, swallowing 12 successive dots. West Indies captain Kieron Pollard even brought back a slip at this point and sensed a way back for his team. However, it was not to be, thanks largely to Rahul.
He was at his fluent best, unleashing the range of strokes that has made him a white-ball monster. When Holder went too short and wide outside off, Rahul got under the ball and scythed it regally over point for six. Then, he dashed out of the crease and dumped debutant left-arm fingerspinner Khary Pierre over the wide long-on fence for six. He was the first to move to a half-century, off 46 balls with a gentle little dab to the left of extra-cover.
With Holder getting some purchase and often tucking the batsmen up for room, Rahul simply chose to play him out. But he took more chances against Pierre and even flitted around the crease to throw the bowler off his lines and lengths. Rahul seamlessly rotated the strike in addition to finding the boundaries, affording Sharma some breathing space, when he couldn't quite find his bearings.
"Initially we give ourselves three-four overs' time to see what the wicket's doing and then we kind of see what the best total would be on such a wicket," Rahul told host broadcaster Star Sports after India piled up 387 for 5. "Then, we try to pace our innings that way and whoever gets going initially continues to do that. Obviously not always does both of us get going from ball one. Today was my day and I was hitting the ball pretty well and I took my chances and fortunately it came off for me today.
"[It] maybe the other way around when we play the next game. All these conversations that happen in the middle are tactical - who is feeling good, who wants to go, and who is getting comfortable against a certain bowler. We plan that and look to execute it. [I'm] happy that it came off today."
Sharma, though, overcame that tepid start and needed just 40 balls from his second fifty, having required 67 balls for his first. At the other end, Rahul showed that he could even pull off MS Dhoni's helicopter shot, shovelling Joseph with the bottom wrist to the right of Pollard at midwicket.
Moments after Sharma brought up his century, Rahul brought up one of his own. But, his role - and spot - in India's limited-overs side has been in flux over the past few years. And after leading India to a T20I series victory in Mumbai, Rahul admitted that being on the sidelines had not been easy.
"I won't say I won't feel it (pressure) at all," Rahul had said after his series-winning 56-ball 91. "Obviously, going in and out of the team is never easy on any player, you take a little bit of time to get used to the international pressure and oppositions. And there are no opposition[s] where you can just walk in and score runs, so it's always difficult and this game is all about confidence and all about being in good rhythm and being in good touch."
Rahul has been in great touch in the limited-overs games against West Indies, having produced a series-clinching contribution in the T20Is and one that led India to a massive total in the second ODI. Such a strong run might be enough to seal a spot in another team, but in this India side dripping with depth, it still remains to be seen if Rahul has done enough.