Why the Indian selectors should keep KL Rahul in mind for the one-day scheme of things as well
India began their quest to draw level in the three-match Test series against Sri Lanka on Thursday and didn't get off to the most auspicious of starts, losing two wickets with just 12 runs on the board.
Skipper Virat Kohli then joined KL Rahul in the middle and began resurrecting the innings steadily. While Kohli was the more aggressive of the two, Rahul didn't leave his captain too far behind.
One of the features that you look for in any batsman who bats in the top 4 is his ability to look assured off both the front as well as the back foot. In the four Tests that he has played so far, Rahul has certainly displayed that quality in two of the matches – in Sydney against Australia in January 2015 and in Colombo against Sri Lanka on Thursday.
And on both occasions, when he looked comfortable in the middle, the 23-year-old registered a century.
The knock on Thursday contained 13 fours and 1 six and the good part about the boundaries in particular was that they weren't just on one side of the wicket. Rahul's initial boundaries came through the leg side and as he progressed through his stay in the middle, he started to open up the other side of the field as well. This was evident from the delightful cover drive he played to get to his half-century.
Now my opinion may be based on just the two centuries that he has made so far, but considering the array of strokes that he possesses, I believe that the Indian selectors should look to provide Rahul with an opportunity in the 50-over format of the game as well – as an opener.
Now you might say that a similar experiment with Cheteshwar Pujara didn't yield the desired results, but there is one difference that separates Rahul's case with that of Pujara. The latter, when bogged down, found it difficult to find a release shot and reduce the pressure on him and the team. Rahul, on the other hand, always keeps the scoreboard moving at a fair clip.
This can be seen from the fact that despite India losing two wickets within the first hour, Rahul, along with Kohli, maintained a run rate of 4 runs per over and continued to keep the board ticking along.
Also, Rahul doesn't seem to be hesitant to take the aerial route, as was evident from his wristy six off Rangana Herath or from his uppish pull shot off Dushmantha Chameera, which fetched him 4 runs.
The only blip in his knock was the manner with which he got out – trying to pull the ball, getting the top edge and handing an easy catch, exactly the way in which he got out when he scored his maiden century in Sydney.
But considering the improvement he showed from his debut Test in Melbourne to the following one in Sydney and in Colombo on Thursday, one can certainly be hopeful of him learning from his errors and improving as he gains experience.
So while the Indian opening partnership of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma in ODIs does seem settled, the selectors should think of keeping Rahul in the fray, for he could certainly become as fine a player in ODIs as he is already becoming while wearing the whites.