KL Rahul or Shikhar Dhawan - Who must open in the tests against West Indies?
Karnataka’s stylish young opener, KL Rahul, has been making all the right noises in the last few months. Right from the time he got a lucky break in RCB’s playing XI as Mandeep Singh had to pull out due to an injury, he hasn’t put a foot wrong. Scoring 3 consecutive attacking 50s and a 40, he cemented his spot in the team and played all games there on till the final.
It was on the back of these impressive performances with the bat that he got picked to open for India in the ODIs in Zimbabwe, and he cashed in beautifully by becoming the first Indian batsman to score a 100 on his ODI debut.
Add to that the fact that he already has 2 test hundreds to his name, with both of them being scored in overseas conditions, and things certainly look good for the youngster in the days to come.
There is no doubt that the talks doing rounds now would be: “Should he replace Shikhar Dhawan in India’s test line-up and open with Murali Vijay in the tests in West Indies?”
While a look at his current form might suggest so, a closer inspection might just suggest otherwise!
Let’s have a look at the stats of these 2 batsmen in recent times:
In the recently concluded IPL, KL Rahul scored 397 runs in 14 games at an average of 44.11 whereas Shikhar scored 501 runs in 17 games at an average of 38.53. Both scored 4 fifties, so clearly, not much to choose here.
KL Rahul has just started his ODI career and that’s against a weak Zimbabwe team, so despite him having scored a hundred on debut, there’s not a lot we can read into and judge about him, whereas Shikhar has been a proven performer in the last few years and averages almost 44 at a strike rate of over 90, after 74 matches.
His last ODI was against Australia in Australia in January this year where he scored 78 off 56 deliveries to help India ace a chase of 330 and avoid a whitewash.
KL Rahul averages 25.60 after 10 test innings, having scored a total of 256 runs in them, but the noteworthy thing in here is that around 220 of those runs have come in 2 innings, which were his 2 test tons in Australia and Sri Lanka. In the other 8 test innings, he’s mustered less than 40 runs at an extremely underwhelming average of less than 5 per innings!
In his most recent test against Sri Lanka, he scored 2 runs in each innings, and was bowled shouldering arms on both occasions.
Shikhar, by contrast, averages almost 41 after 33 test innings, with 4 hundreds to his name, and in his last test outing on a sluggish pitch in Delhi against South Africa, he made scores of 33 and 21 which might not look much but were important contributions in a relatively low scoring test where the other opener, Murali Vijay, had scores of 12 and 3.
From these overall as well as current numbers, it’s evident that there is no reason why, despite Rahul’s current form, the selectors must look to replace Shikhar with him immediately for the tests in West Indies.
There is no question about Rahul’s class and form, and he would surely go on to play many test matches for India. Maybe, he can even slot into the team in the middle order in the tests for now, if India plans to go in with 6 batsmen.
But looking at past experience and sheer form, there isn’t much doubt that Shikhar Dhawan deserves to continue being the opener in test matches, at least in the tests in West Indies, and Rahul should have to wait for his chance until an opener is injured or suffers a serious loss of form.
Having 2 quality openers vying for one spot can only benefit the team. It’s the kind of situation a team management won’t mind being in, but going by form, experience and incumbency, it is Shikhar Dhawan for sure, who must get the not ahead of Rahul to open alongside Murali Vijay in West Indies.