KL Rahul has been in red-hot form for quite some time. The lad from Karnataka has been churning out fifties at a rate of knots. Shikhar Dhawan's absence from the side (because of recurring injuries) has been a blessing in disguise for the 27-year-old.
He might appear a bit frantic at first in 50-over cricket, but he makes batting look ridiculously easy once he gets in. Also, he is equally good at smacking the bowlers around in 20-over cricket.
To top it all, KL Rahul seems to have come of age. His talent was never in question, but talent alone cannot help you win matches. You need to be able to score consistently if you want to make your presence felt.
Now, consistency is not everybody's cup of tea. You cannot showcase consistency if your position in the batting order is insecure, but KL Rahul seems to have learned a lot about versatility at a young age.
His place in the batting order had been a matter of debate for quite some time. Surprisingly, the lad from Karnataka has turned into a multi-purpose cricketer. Be it sharing opening duties with Rohit Sharma, batting in the middle order or keeping wickets for his side. To put things simply, he has been punching well above his weight and you cannot ask for more, can you?
Back in January this year, KL Rahul was seen smashing the Aussie bowlers all around the park in Rajkot. His 52-ball 80 took his side to a score of 340. The thing that stood out was: Rahul batted at five, which isn't his regular position in the batting order. Furthermore, he went about his business without consuming too many deliveries. Rahul, who started out as an opener, seems to have grown accustomed to playing in the middle order.
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Well, KL Rahul did not have much to choose as the opening partnership of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma has been in the limelight for quite some time. To date, Sharma and Dhawan have scored more than 4500 runs while batting together. Therefore, the team's think tank never felt the need to look beyond Dhawan and Sharma.
Now that Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are facing injury concerns, the team's think tank wants Mayank Agarwal and Prithwi Shaw to work together as openers, which means Rahul might not get too many opportunities to open the innings once India's limited-overs vice-captain is back. But now he can cement his place in the batting order because he is a specialist batsman that can keep wickets.
How is a versatile KL Rahul helpful?
It is always good to have a wicket-keeper batsman in the top five. At present, Rahul is batting at five, which means a couple of all-rounders can be sent in at six and seven. Once Hardik Pandya is match fit, he can be sent in at six followed by Jadeja at seven. Having two genuine all-rounders in the line up will not only lend stability and depth to the batting order but will also allow the captain to go into the match with as many as six bowling options.
The opener that can don many hats
You can ask him to share the opening duties with Rohit Sharma if need be. Batting at number four/five isn't a problem either. Having a jack of many trades, that can bat according to the team's requirement, happens to be an added plus. Want someone to bat at four and keep the ship afloat? Rahul is there to do the job for you. Want someone to bat in the middle order and score a quickfire 70? Rahul will do it for you. Simply put, he can shift gears in accordance with the match situation.
In six ODI innings in 2020 (Feb 20, 2020), KL Rahul has scored 325 runs with a couple of fifties and a century. There's more to KL Rahul than what meets the eye. The hundred scored by him against the Kiwis at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui came while batting at five, after the team's top order was blown away like nine pins.
The all-format player
Back in 2015, during the fourth and final test match of the 2014-15 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the Karnataka lad made the Aussies sweat it out at the SCG. He stitched a crucial 141-run partnership for the 3rd wicket with Virat Kohli. The then 22-year-old spent a good amount of time in the middle as he was ready to knuckle down but did not think twice before punishing the looseners.
Three years down the line, he showcased his power-hitting ability and scored 659 runs in 14 IPL games at an average of over 50. His heroics in the IPL helped him transform into an all-format player from a 'Test specialist'.
During the 2018 Tour of England, Rahul scored a scintillating century in the first T20I at the Emirates Old Trafford.
KL Rahul has been a vital part of the playing XI in recent times and has done reasonably well in the limited opportunities he has got. Here's a specialist batter that can bat anywhere in the top five and his wicket-keeping skills come as an added plus. Therefore, having him in the playing XI is bound to reap dividends in the long-run.Published 24 Feb 2020, 08:23 IST