Former India batsman VVS Laxman believes KL Rahul’s knock in the second ODI at Rajkot was just the type of innings the batsman needed to lift his career. Rahul is the team floater – he has batted at No. 3, 4 and at the top in his last three innings and has scored 47, 54 and 80. Besides, he has even kept wickets and done reasonably well in the absence of Rishabh Pant.

In Rajkot, Rahul walked out to bat when India had lost Shreyas Iyer and Virat Kohli in quick succession, and with Manish Pandey dismissed not too long after, the onus was on Rahul to step up to the occasion. From No. 5, Rahul scored 80 off 52 balls with six fours and three sixes and it was the tempo set by him that allowed India to score 53 off the final five.

“There was a danger of the innings going the Wankhede way when Shikhar and Shreyas Iyer fell in quick succession, but KL Rahul produced the innings of his fledgling ODI career. It’s never easy to be moved up and down the order, and Rahul would have mentally bargained for a longer run as opener after his success against West Indies last month,” Laxman wrote in Sunday’s Times Of India.

“At No. 5, where he was batting for only the second time, he had to make technical and mental adjustments, which he managed brilliantly. He did move around the crease but never tried to over-hit the ball, which augmented his timing and his placement. The six over cover off Starc was a treat for sore eyes, a stroke of rare beauty pulled off effortlessly.”

Laxman credited India for the way they bounced back from the 10-wicket drubbing at the Wankhede. Once again, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan got off the blocks, adding 81 runs inside 14 overs, which Laxman feels, set the platform for India’s strong total of 340. Virat Kohli, returning to No. 3 also contributed with a half-century which was equally crucial.

“A strong reply was always on the cards given the resilience of this Indian side, but the manner in which they raised themselves in Rajkot against a formidable Australia after the drubbing in Wankhede was a tribute to their character and skill,” Laxman, who played 134 Tests and 86 ODIs, said.

“Not for the first time, the tempo was set by Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, who looked in especially wonderful touch. When Shikhar is purring along, he makes a telling impact, and right from the time he drove his first ball from Mitchell Starc down the ground, he was in top gear. His assault on Ashton Agar’s left-arm spin was both calculated and essential.

“Virat Kohli, rightly back at No. 3, played like only he can. Not only did he score quickly but gave Shikhar as much of the strike as possible when the latter was taking Agar apart. That speaks to Virat’s situational awareness, something that singles him out from the very best.”

Overall, it was wonderful to see India pack a punch to force the series into the decider and Laxman reckons the bowlers deserve equal credit to stop Australia’s batsmen.

“It was a steep target but India needed to bowl well. Jasprit Bumrah was at his excellent best in his four-over new-ball burst, especially against Aaron Finch, while Manish Pandey reiterated the value of game-turning fielding with a sensational catch to pack off David Warner,” said Laxman.