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Has 'wicketkeeper-batsman' KL Rahul shut the door on Rishabh Pant?

Modified 05 Feb 2020, 16:29 IST

KL Rahul
KL Rahul

KL Rahul has probably had the best two months of his life. Starting from the series against the West Indies at home, the Karnataka batsman has been raking in the runs at will, and has cemented his place in the side. Even though skipper Virat Kohli has shuffled him up and down the order, Rahul has continued to flourish.

In the T20 series against the West Indies, Rahul aggregated 164 runs at the top of the order, including two fifties, at an average of 54.67. Then in the ODI series against the ‘Men in Maroon’, Rahul underlined his value to the side by scoring a gorgeous 102 in the second ODI. In the subsequent three match T20 series against Sri Lanka, Rahul scored 45 and 54 in the two innings he batted.

Also see - India New Zealand schedule

Once India reverted to the opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma at the top of the order, Rahul came in at No. 3 in the first ODI, and scored 46. In the second ODI, skipper Kohli shifted him to No. 5, and Rahul again responded with the bat at that position too, scoring a whirlwind 80 off just 52 balls. He also kept wickets in the absence of Rishabh Pant, and came out successful in that aspect as well.

New Zealand v India - T20: Game 4
New Zealand v India - T20: Game 4

The ‘wicketkeeper-batsman’ Rahul continued his good form in the five match T20 series against New Zealand, scoring 224 runs at an average of 56. And now, in the first ODI against New Zealand, Rahul has underlined his value yet again as the ‘keeper batsman, scoring 88 off just 64 balls.

With his surreal performances, Rahul has probably driven Pant out of the reckoning for a place in the side - at least for now.

This is what skipper Kohli had to say on the issue.

"It (Rahul's keeping) definitely allows us to play an extra batsman which strengthens our batting massively. That is a very important factor as far as the team balance is concerned. If you look at the 2003 World Cup when Rahul bhai started keeping, the balance became different because you could play an extra batter and guys at the top could really play positive cricket."

Kohli also added that Rahul brings excellent balance to the team.

"Look, we have what we have in the team. It is just that Rahul really brings in good balance, if he can keep and bat that well in that position. He has come into the slot and he has done well so we will have to persist with that a little bit and see where that takes us and not necessarily be confused about the other options we have.”
Pant has not proved himself, in spite of getting many chances
Pant has not proved himself, in spite of getting many chances

This suggests the door might well be shut on Pant for the time being. And Pant has only himself to blame for that.

The talented left-hander has been extremely careless, and does not have the runs to back him. In the whole of 2019, Pant played 12 matches and scored just 305 runs, at a poor average of 27.73. He scored just a solitary fifty in ODI cricket, in spite of getting many chances to prove himself.

At a time when Indian cricket has too many options for too few places, Rahul has proven himself as the first choice wicketkeeper. Is it a coincidence that he too has turned into an excellent makeshift keeper-batsman, just like his namesake Dravid?

Published 05 Feb 2020, 13:32 IST
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