Will Rohit Sharma's poor form open the door for KL Rahul's inclusion in the Indian team?
An event like the IPL requires players to be at their best, regardless of the number of caps you have for your national team. The tournament offers very little margin for error to the players and a decline in form, especially for an International player, can prove detrimental in terms of the player losing his confidence and his place both in the franchise as well as in the International squad.
Well, the current scenario is pretty clear in the Indian camp. With Rohit Sharma struggling to perform this year in the IPL, his counter-part, KL Rahul, is in the form of his life and is now a talking point ahead of Indian team’s selection for the tour of England.
A memorable IPL season for KL Rahul so far
True, a price tag can make or break a player; where others with a higher price tag have failed to perform this year, KL Rahul has proved his worth for every penny spent on him by the Kings Xl Punjab. The Royal Challengers Bangalore discard is having a season to remember. With records flying around him match after match, the Karnataka opening batsman is making his former franchise repent the decision of letting him go. It will be fair to say that things began for KL Rahul against Delhi, where he smashed a 14-ball fifty to turn the match totally into a one-sided affair.
What followed after that was an exceptional run of big scores with some rare mishaps. Tipped as the complete Indian batsman after the modern great Virat Kohli, the batsman has impressed with his footwork and has shown great skills of power hitting. Rahul also registered his highest-ever IPL score when he smashed an unbeaten 84 to lead Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) to a comfortable six-wicket win over bottom-placed Rajasthan Royals (RR) in an IPL 2018 match at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore on Sunday night.
He has played a key role in KXIP's brilliant run in the tournament this year. With scores of 51, 47, 60 and 84, the Karnataka lad has denied the centre stage to even the Universe Boss, Chris Gayle, this year.
Rahul is also among the contenders for the “Orange Cap” with 376 runs in 9 matches and is currently placed at number 4 in a list which has the likes of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Shane Watson and AB De Villiers.
Rohit Sharma's contrasting form
While Rahul's stocks have risen this season, Mumbai Indians and their captain Rohit Sharma have not had the best of times in IPL 2018. Mumbai languish in the fifth spot and are hanging on for a chance to qualify for the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. Sharma too has struggled to get going this season.
His inability to influence the game for his team this year is quite evident. To make things worse, he is not even in the contention for the “Orange Cap” for the first time in a span of five years.
The 31-year-old has scored 231 runs in 10 matches at an average of 28.87 and a strike rate of 142.59. The very well-known fact is that his struggles began soon after he landed in South Africa for the first test, where he was dropped after two test matches. His patchy for didn't stop there; he was clearly seen struggling in the Nidahas tournament as well.
With only two big scores to his name, the batsman finds himself in a spot of bother in comparison to KL Rahul. Although Sharma opens the batting for India and bats a tad-lower down the order for his franchise, the fact that he is not performing puts him under the scanner and allows the Indian team selectors to focus on the flourishing and rejuvenated KL Rahul.
Rahul over Rohit? The most concerning factor for selectors
On Sunday, Rahul was again in fine form but instead of adopting his usual attacking strategy, he opted for a more patient innings with Punjab chasing a tricky target. Rahul gave his team the perfect platform before taking on the bowlers and guided his team to an easy win over a hapless Rajasthan team.
Rahul's brilliant performances this season and Sharma's struggles have led to many believe that the Mumbai skipper should make way for the Kings XI Punjab batsman in the Indian limited overs squad.
The Indian cricket team selection committee is due to meet in Bengaluru on May 8 for the selection of different Indian squads for the one-off test against Afghanistan, India’s tour of Ireland and England which includes a two match T20 series against Ireland in Ireland followed by three T20Is, three ODIs and five test matches against England and also for India A’s tour of England for a tri-series between India A, England A and West Indies A. The discussion about the prospect of giving the in-form KL Rahul the nod over struggling Rohit Sharma is going to be the central feature of the selection commitee's dissucssion.
Since more than half of the tournament is done and dusted, Rohit Sharma will surely think of redeeming his lost reputation in order to get himself among the run scorers before the long tour and to prove a point that the lion never forgets how to roar.