KL Rahul needs to reflect on failures and bounce back strong
When KL Rahul first burst into the limelight stockpiling runs for Karnataka in the 2012-13 domestic season, the cricketing fraternity discovered India's next batting mainstay. Everyone who saw the youngster batting at his full potential spoke highly about his majestic ability to time the ball and churn out high scores with relative ease.
It was hard for the selectors to neglect his prowess for long and he was soon fast-tracked into the Test squad for the tour to Australia.
Though Rahul endured failures on his debut in the Boxing Day Test at MCG, he announced his arrival on the international scene in the next match with a patient century, showcasing his talent to the world. He continued to impress in the longest version of the game with hundreds in away fixtures against West Indies and Sri Lanka. However, his inability to convert healthy starts into noteworthy performances made critics question his durability in the long run.
The management though banked on Rahul as a prospect and provided him an opportunity in the limited-overs series versus Zimbabwe where the debutant notched up his maiden ODI ton. He went on to smash the record of the fastest T2OI century by an Indian when he crushed West Indies with a brutal 110 off just 51 deliveries.
Different formats, different strokes
Having tasted success early in his career, Rahul kept impressing in colored-clothing affairs while his red-ball career suffered in foreign assignments in unfriendly conditions. Struggling in South Africa, Australia, and England, he managed to score only a century and a fifty across 22 innings in 2018 averaging 22.
Experiencing a lean patch, Rahul made changes to his back-lift and defensive technique under the guidance of Sanjay Bangar to rectify his problems against the incoming delivery. Adjustments to the core technique only worsened the issue as he tended to develop a knack of withdrawing his bat at the moment of contact.
His discomfort with the newfangled technique was evident during his innings against West Indies in Sabina Park where he looked iffy in his 6 off 63 balls. The process hampered his temperament as he failed to convert eight prospective starts (scores above 20) into scores of substance in 25 Test innings since 2018.
The series against West Indies was unarguably the last opportunity for Rahul to justify his position in the team before the imminent axing. He failed to deliver and thus, for the series against South Africa, the Indian management has decided to pick in-form Rohit Sharma as the frontline opener. Losing his spot to Shubman Gill, Rahul needs to perform in the domestic circuit and the upcoming matches for India and put forward a strong case for himself. With age on his side, he should be hopeful of another opportunity in the purest format.
KL Rahul is a fine young batsman and it would be disheartening to see him finish with just 36 Tests against his name. How he grabs his chances ahead will decide his future as a Test cricketer.