KL Rahul - A beautiful tale of contrasting halves
An ode to India's latest batting prodigy from Karnataka.
He stands at the crease. Tall and lean. Feet a few inches apart, a bit bent. Bat hanging in the air, not the brutal tapping that is characteristic of modern day players. His left foot goes across to the middle stump. The bat comes down from second slip, maybe third. It's a very flowy, a very grand backlift. A bit majestic in its manifestation.
And then there are those wrists. A throwback to the golden age, that of VVS Laxman and Mohammed Azharuddin. In almost every shot he plays, it's his wrists which are most pronounced, most noticeable. Rolling them to keep that square cut along the ground, to thread that gap between extra cover and mid off sending the cover drives racing to the boundary. Or to whip balls towards mid wicket, both along the ground and in the air, with the kind of power only such special wrists can generate. Subtle and ferocious, both at the same time.
The head turns from right to left after each ball, his eyes firmly taking the sights in, the field surveyed carefully for any minor changes. It's an important exercise for a batsman who relies more on cutting through gaps in the field, and not on taking the aerial route. The eyes seem transfixed, on the field, and then on the ball. Intense.
Then there is a tap on the visor of the helmet, a gentle, non-fussed tap. And finally, while he positions himself to face the ball, the eyes go down for what at best would seem a couple of seconds. This two second period is a release for those eyes, it's a release for KL Rahul. And the moment he looks up, the eyes seem recharged, fresh for battle. And this ritual repeats itself, one ball after another.
It's a strange mixture, this. A form of batting built around such concentration and focus, with so much emphasis on technique and watertight defence, so intense and taxing producing outcomes or strokes as beautiful as his is not too common. Rahul, just like his wrists is a tale of two halves, two very contrasting halves. Graft and flair. Intense and free.
A different figure off the field
Off the field, Rahul is not a throwback to the previous generation. Far from it. As far as Alastair Cook is to taking a test hattrick. He sports a huge beard and a man bun. His hair is long, and when it's not tied, it looks perfect for the stereotypical villainous character. His shoulders and arms are heavily tattooed, adding to this bad boy type gen next appearance.
Yet, when he speaks, his voice, despite being heavy, seems to be a very soft-spoken and guarded person. His words are carefully chosen, and he delivers them slowly, with a hint of poise. He's so goody two shoes, you tell yourself, not the bad boy his appearance suggests he is. Like his wrists, like his batting, his personality is also a tale of two very contrasting halves. One heading towards the West, the other East.
It's evident even in his international career. Of the eleven innings, he has played until now, there have been three centuries and seven single-digit scores. His scores have never been decent. They are either wonderful or extremely poor.
During his unbeaten century on debut in the first ODI against Zimbabwe, as well as in his composed 63 in the third game, this blend, of defence and attack, of caution and aggression held him in good stead.
Under testing conditions, Rahul dug in, trusting his defence to see him through the tough phase with the new ball. Once the wicket eased a bit, he used his wrists, those magnificent bones of genius, to rotate the strike, keeping the scoreboard ticking while also getting the occasional boundary, taking India to victory with ease on both occasions. As with everything KL Rahul, it was a perfect balance. A beautiful manifestation of two contrasting halves.
Rahul is unique, and it is for this very reason. With him, nothing is completely black or white, nothing is fully transparent or opaque. It's always a mixture, a blend of everything. He's a fusion of two extremes, he's a rarity. A gem.