KL Rahul: Making the best of scattered appearances
In the recent spate of matches being played by the Indian team on its home turf, KL Rahul’s appearances which have been few and far between are analogous to a skilled actor receiving much lesser screen time than what is perhaps deserved by him and desired by his fans.
Amongst a wealth of alternatives vying for the opening slot in the Indian batting order for ODI’s, Rahul fails to make the cut as the Shikhar Dhawan-Rohit Sharma juggernaut refuses to let poor performances creep in its ongoing purple patch while in tests, Murali Vijay’s return to cricket has further complicated Rahul’s advent into the playing 11.
In this scenario, Rahul’s relative lack of experience, failure to convert the starts into big scores and his preferred batting position have left him warming the benches, inadvertently falling prey to the team management’s scheme of rationing. In the ongoing T20I series against Sri Lanka though wherein Rahul has been included as an opener, his stage presence has been immaculate.
While Rahul anchored the team’s innings in the first T20I with his 48-ball 61 before MS Dhoni and Manish Pandey provided the late thrust to push the team’s total to 180, the second T20I saw him playing an effective second fiddle to Rohit Sharma’s fireworks.
In just the second over of the match, Rahul drove a length ball straight past the bowler for a four with the sublimity on full display. A slight hiccup in the next over saw him being dropped off the bowling of Mathews as he slashed hard at a delivery wide of the off stump to backward point where Samarawickrama failed to hold on. However, not letting the same be a disconcerting factor, Rahul lofted a short of length delivery for a six over mid-off in the very next over and one could tell that the onslaught was underway. Soon after, Rohit Sharma took over as the wrecker-in chief, pulverizing the Sri Lankan bowlers with Rahul being confined to the role of a spectator from the opposite end. However, Sharma’s dismissal in the 13th over meant that the onus once again fell back on Rahul to ensure that the momentum stays intact while Dhoni finds his groove.
In doing so, Rahul took a liking to the Sri Lankan seamers, Pradeep and Chameera, hitting them at will, more so opting for the aerial route and making sure that the spectators are treated to a traditionalist approach to batting. The most notable being a lofted cover drive for a six off the bowling of Chameera in the 18th over.
It doesn’t take someone with the cricket acumen of Ayaz Memon to gauge that the Sri Lankan bowling attack is no preparation for the South African pace battery comprising Steyn, Morkel and Rabada, a formidable troika, more so at home which will be presenting India with its sternest test in over 6 months or so when it tours South Africa in January.
Even after two successive match-winning knocks from KL Rahul, it is still highly unlikely that Kohli would meddle with the opening duo of Dhawan and Vijay for the first test against South Africa. Nevertheless, Rahul has certainly made a big statement for his inclusion in the limited overs leg of the tour and perhaps prompted the team management to rethink their scheme of cricket rationing and giving him a more permanent stint in the playing 11.