A ‘Versatile’ KL Rahul is a Much Bigger Asset

KL Rahul has been in red-hot form for quite some time. The lad from Karnataka has been churning out fifties at a rate of knots. Shikhar Dhawan’s absence from the side ( because of recurring injuries) has been a blessing in disguise for KL Rahul.

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He might appear a bit frantic at first in 50-over cricket, but he makes batting look ridiculously easy once he gets in. Also, he is equally good at smacking the bowlers around in 20-over cricket. 

To top it all, KL Rahul seems to have come of age. His talent was never in question, but talent alone cannot help you win matches. You need to be able to score consistently if you want to make your presence felt. 

Now, consistency is not everybody’s cup of tea. You cannot showcase consistency if your position in the batting order is insecure, but KL Rahul seems to have learnt a lot about versatility at a young age.

His place in the batting order had been a matter of debate for quite some time. Surprisingly, the lad from Karnataka has turned into a multi-purpose cricketer. He can share the opening duties with Rohit Sharma if need be. Batting in the middle order isn’t a problem either. Furthermore, he has been keeping wickets for his side. To put things simply, he has been punching well above his weight and you cannot ask for anything more, can you? 

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Back in January this year, KL Rahul was seen smashing the Aussie bowlers all around the park in Rajkot. His 52-ball 80 took his side to a score of 340. The thing that stood out was: Rahul batted at five, which isn’t his regular position in the batting order. Furthermore, he went about his business without consuming too many deliveries. Rahul, who started out as an opener, seems to have grown accustomed to playing in the middle order. Harsha Bhogle spoke at length about KL Rahul’s versatility while commentating. Here’s what the Tweet from the veteran commentator said:

Well, KL Rahul did not have much to choose as the opening partnership of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma has been in the limelight for quite some time. Till date, Sharma and Dhawan have scored more than 4500 runs while batting together. Therefore, the team’s think tank never felt the need to look beyond Dhawan and Sharma.

Now that Shikhar Dhawan is facing injury concerns, the team’s think tank wants Mayank Agarwal and Prithwi Shaw to work together as openers, which means Rahul might not get too many opportunities to open the innings once Rohit Sharma is back. But now he can cement his place in the batting order because he is a specialist batsman that can keep wickets.

How is a versatile KL Rahul helpful?

A wicket-keeper batsman is an added plus: It is always good to have a wicket-keeper batsman in the top five. At present, Rahul is batting at five, which means a couple of all-rounders can be sent in at six and seven. Once Hardik Pandya is match fit, he can be sent in at six followed by Jadeja at seven. Having two genuine all-rounders in the line up will not only lend stability and depth to the batting order, but will also allow the captain to go into the match with as many as six bowling options.

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The opener that can don many hats: 

The ‘multi-purpose’ batsman: You can ask him to share the opening duties with Rohit Sharma if need be. Batting at number four/five isn’t a problem either. Having a jack of many trades, that can bat according to the team’s requirement, happens to be an added plus. Want someone to bat at four and keep the ship afloat? Rahul is there to do the job for you. Want someone to bat in the middle order and score a quickfire 70? Rahul will do it for you. Simply put, he can shift gears in accordance with the match situation.

In six ODI innings in 2020 (Feb 20, 2020), KL Rahul has scored 325 runs with a couple of fifties and a century. There’s more to KL Rahul than what meets the eye. The hundred scored by him against the Kiwis at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui came while batting at five, after the team’s top order was blown away like nine pins.

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The all-format player: Back in 2015, during the fourth and final test match of the 2014-15 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the Karnataka lad made the Aussies sweat it out at the SCG. He stitched a crucial 141-run partnership for the 3rd wicket with Virat Kohli. The then 22-year-old spent a good amount of time in the middle as he was ready to knuckle down but did not think twice before punishing the looseners. 

Three years down the line, he showcased his power-hitting ability and scored 659 runs in 14 IPL games at an average of over 50. His heroics in the IPL helped him transform into an all-format player from a ‘Test specialist’.

During the 2018 Tour of England, Rahul scored a scintillating century at the Emirates Old Trafford.

KL Rahul has been a vital part of the playing XI in recent times and has done reasonably well in the limited opportunities he has got. Here’s a specialist batter that can bat anywhere in the top five and his wicket-keeping skills come as an added plus. Therefore, having him in the playing XI is bound to reap dividends in the long-run.

Kerala’s Life Away From the Featherbeds

Not many would have thought that Kerala would make it to the Semi-final of the Ranji Trophy, India’s premier first-class competition before the season got underway. It certainly would be no overstatement to say that before the season’s commencement, the team from India’s far south was caught in dire straits.

The team was in shambles as a bunch of players, including the likes of Rohan Prem and Sandeep Warrier, had shown dissent against the captain (Sachin Baby). Also, it goes without saying that Kerala’s cricket association does not have an abundant pool of resources at its disposal. Not many domestic cricketers want to join Kerala cricket. Mumbai and Karnataka are the envy of most first-class cricketers because of the kind of perks and facilities the players are provided with. Continue reading “Kerala’s Life Away From the Featherbeds”

It Has Been a Path-Breaking Tour of Australia

Winning a series down under has always been the dream of each and every Indian captain. The fact that Australia hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Indians is no hyperbole. The series played in 2003-04 happened to be the last instance where the Indians managed to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on Australian soil. Sourav Ganguly’s men succeeded in keeping the Aussies at bay throughout the series and managed to salvage a commanding draw in the 4th and final test match of the series after scoring in excess of 700 runs in the first innings. Consequently, the series was squared and the Indians managed to retain the silverware.

Approximately 15 years down the line, Virat Kohli’s men have defeated the Aussies comprehensively across formats. It certainly would be no hyperbole to state that there’s a wide gulf that separates the current bunch of Aussie cricketers from the ones who played in the 2003-04 series. Back then, the Aussies had some of the finest cricketers in world cricket. You had the likes of Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, and Michael Bevan in the batting department. The bowling department was no less impressive, with tried and tested names in Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, and Glenn McGrath tormenting the batters frequently. Continue reading “It Has Been a Path-Breaking Tour of Australia”

A Rivalry for the Legends to Narrate: Revisiting the Tendulkar-Warne Classics

The game of cricket has been witness to some of the strongest on-field friendships, and even more so for the rivalries. Over the years, viewers of the game have been treated to some monumental rivalries. Lara’s batting exploits against Muralitharan have now become an integral part of the cricketing folklore. The same happens to be the case with Jeff Thomson and Sir Viv Richards. The Aussie quick Jeff Thomson was known for tormenting batters around the globe, but found an able opponent in Sir Vivian Richards, a batsman who could smash the bowlers all around the park with relative ease.

 But for an Indian cricket fan, the book of famous cricketing rivalries would always begin with the Tendulkar-Warne saga. A lot of you would agree that not even retirement could end this rivalry when Tendulkar was seen facing Warne in an All-stars clash in the United States back in 2015. Continue reading “A Rivalry for the Legends to Narrate: Revisiting the Tendulkar-Warne Classics”

Cheteshwar Pujara and the Joys of Playing the Waiting Game

The sheer charm of playing test match cricket is fading away at a rate of knots. The money and fame associated with the shortest format of the game seem to be pulling promising talents away from long-form cricket. I remember getting up at 5 am in the morning to watch India’ taking on Australia back in 2003-04. Back then, there used to be a charm about playing and watching test match cricket. It was a time when scoring runs for your country used to be the first thing on a cricketer’s to-do list. But sadly, the advent of Twenty20 cricket has led to a drastic decline in the popularity of test match cricket. Continue reading “Cheteshwar Pujara and the Joys of Playing the Waiting Game”

Over Dependency on Kohli Not the Only Worry Engulfing the Men in Blue…

An all-round show from Sam Curran, followed by some late resurgence from Ben Stokes snatched away a well-deserved Indian victory at Edgbaston. Well, a target of 194 wasn’t a big one, certainly not for the table-toppers.

A major reason behind the loss was the Indian batting line-up’s over-dependence on Kohli. It goes without saying that for almost half a decade now, the Indian batting lineup has been reliant on Virat Kohli. India’s miraculous home season in 2016-2017 coincided with Kohli’s dream run with the willow in hand. He has scored six double centuries in just a year and a half.

However, five out of Kohli’s six double tons have been scored on the slow turning tracks of the Indian Subcontinent. A solitary double century also came against a largely-depleted West Indian pace attack on the flatbeds of Antigua in 2016.

Kohli, undoubtedly, is a world-class player, with 57 international centuries already under his belt, but the team’s over-reliance on the star right-hander has been a grave concern in the recent past.  The recently-concluded Birmingham test also sheds light on the batting line-up’s over-dependence on Kohli, wherein 149 runs out of a total tally of 274 runs in the first innings were scored by the Indian skipper himself. That’s more than 54% of the total runs scored during the first innings.

The problems don’t end here. There are quite a few chinks in the armour that need to be addressed before the test at Lord’s begins on August 9.

  • Who Bats Where?

This, in all fairness, is the biggest question that needs to be answered before the 2nd test. There certainly isn’t a dearth of options, but with several batsmen struggling to score on the seaming tracks of England, the playing XI might undergo a significant transformation before the second test. Dhawan might be seen vacating the opening slot for Lokesh Rahul. Pujara, on the other hand, is most likely to replace Ajinkya Rahane, who is witnessing a significant dip in form.  If that happens, then Cheteshwar Pujara would come in at three, followed by Virat Kohli in at four. We might also see Karun Nair coming in at five, followed by Dinesh Karthik the glovesman and Hardik Pandya, the seaming all-rounder. Ashwin can bat at eight to add depth to the batting order. India’s batting order is quite similar to a  jigsaw puzzle wherein, you don’t know which piece will go where.

  • Would Rahane Make Way for Pujara?

Virat Kohli’s call to drop Cheteshwar Pujara from the starting XI was met coldly by most cricket Pandits. Harsha Bhogle, in one of his tweets featured on Cricbuzz, he threw light on Pujara’s poor run in county cricket this year but reiterated that, given Pujara’s stature in long-form cricket,  he’d be surprised if Pujara doesn’t get to play in the five-match series. With a solid technique and an array of classical strokes under his kitty, Pujara will be India’s best bet to bat at three. The fact that he has played a fair amount of county cricket over the years for Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and Yorkshire also adds weight to Pujara’s credentials.

  • Handling Lokesh Rahul
    An elegant batting technique, a hunger to succeed at the highest level, and classical strokeplay, KL Rahul has every single attribute one needs to succeed in all three formats of the game. At 25, the Karnataka batsman has showcased his class and caliber, but only in patches. The fact that Shikhar Dhawan’s exploits in all forms of the game have made him pretty much an automatic choice has perhaps gone against Rahul.  Batting at three in the 1st test at Edgbaston, he was dismissed cheaply in both the innings. The 25-year-old’s dismissals in both the innings had less to do with a slump in form, and more to do with his insecure place in the batting order. For the Indians to come good at Lord’s, they need to send Rahul up the order. Getting him to open the batting by dropping Dhawan is perhaps the best thing the Indian think-tank can do. Sending him to open the batting would allow Rahul to take his own sweet time to get his eye in.
  • Who Would Sit Out?
    An easy call this. Given Rahane’s poor form, he’d possibly sit out of the playing XI to make way for Pujara. Dhawan, on the other hand, might also be dropped with Lokesh Rahul taking his place as an opener. With Dhawan warming the bench, Karun Nair might find a place in the playing XI.

    As far as the bowling lineup is concerned, Umesh Yadav is most likely to be dropped to make way for Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. The likes of Ishant, Shami, and Ashwin are expected to retain their places in the playing XI.

  • Probable XI
    KL Rahul
    M. Vijay
    Cheteshwar Pujara
    Virat Kohli (c)
    Karun Nair
    Dinesh Karthik (w)
    Hardik Pandya
    R. Ashwin
    Bhuvaneshwar Kumar
    M. Shami
    Ishant Sharma

 

 

 

Running between wickets: As important as ever…

Running between the wickets has been an integral part and parcel of the game ever since its inception, but with the emergence of Twenty20 cricket, players can be seen swinging their willows ferociously in an attempt to score as many runs as possible. The likes of Chris Gayle and Glenn Maxwell often send oppositions on a leather hunt right from the outset. But, even with an increased amount of emphasis being laid on smashing sixes and fours, the importance of running between the wickets hasn’t declined.

Continue reading “Running between wickets: As important as ever…”