India vs England, 2018
India’s top-order batsman KL Rahul has been on song in the shortest format of the game this year. Runs have followed the player everywhere he has been. From the Indian Premier League to the T20Is against Ireland and England, the batsman stood tall. All the form and the glitz helped him get into the starting XI in Test cricket.
But, the poor application in the ongoing India England Test Series has got his confidence take a massive hit.
The Bengaluru boy was one of the best performers of the Indian Premier League 2018 where he amassed runs consistently for Kings XI Punjab. A lot was expected from the rising star in Test cricket as well. Chances have knocked his window, but outside the subcontinent, his form has been worrisome.
One felt having the in-form player in the squad was an indication that he could get into the playing XI and he rightly deserved the call.
No doubt, Rahul is one of the best batsmen in the world in T20s. But has that attacking mode impacted his game?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Rahul needs to go back to basics if he needs to perform and survive in the longest format.
India was folded for a paltry 107 runs in their first innings and stare at another defeat. It’s a batting unit which has just been claustrophobic in conditions with swing and seam. It’s a batting order which lacks confidence. And Rahul, too, is a significant part of it.
Rahul fails once again against England
Rahul failed in the first Test against England at Edgbaston with scores of 4 and 13, as India went on to lose the match by 31 runs. In the second Test at Lord’s, Rahul was sent to open the innings in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, and the player fell prey to James Anderson’s swing.
Rahul was caught behind by Jonny Bairstow off Anderson’s bowling as India were pegged back at 11/2 at that stage. Rahul came into the Tests in back of some prime form as compared to the others. And falling in a similar fashion like the rest brings forward questions that he needs to answer quickly.
In South Africa, he couldn’t stand against the bounce and persistence of Proteas bowlers. His average of 7.50 in the rainbow nation speaks a lot. In England, the average isn’t worth mentioning either (8.33).
Rahul’s dismissals portray a gloomy picture
When the 25-year-old came out to bat at Edgbaston, something positive was expected from his stay at the crease. Minutes later he was walking back after chasing a widish delivery which was just the 2nd ball he faced.
Ben Stokes then squared him up as Rahul offered a regulation catch in the 2nd innings. At Lord’s, Anderson’s length delivery got him to poke once again at the moving ball. The issues speak a lot about the lack of character and there hasn’t been enough fight. This is the worrying factor for the Indian batting unit.
Perhaps patience is a virtue here and Rahul needs to resurrect his thinking at the moment. All these dismissals portray a gloomy picture as far Test cricket is concerned.
Is Rahul only a limited-overs specialist?
Over time we have seen many limited-overs specialists in the Indian side not going and making it big in the longest format of the game. Players like Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh have been extraordinary in ODIs and T20Is, but never got going in Test cricket. So was Suresh Raina, who too failed miserably.
Outside the subcontinent, they couldn’t handle the swinging conditions and also the bounce on offer. Rahul’s direction at the moment shows he is on the footsteps of these players. One needs to excel outside the subcontinent to show his real mettle and Rahul needs to get runs in challenging situations to come out stronger.
Given his performances in both South Africa and England this year, he needs to handle several issues before he can cement his place in the Test squad. One of this is playing the ball as per merit to negotiate pacers. Secondly, he needs to be patient enough and show respect to opponent bowlers.
What next for Rahul in Tests?
The right-handed batsman was selected ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara in the 1st Test. At Lord’s, he was preferred over Dhawan. So far in three innings, the top-order batsman has managed only 25 runs. One may feel there was a lack of practice with the red ball cricket as India went into the Tests with only one practice match.
Rahul will get the chances to go and express himself. But the issue that lies ahead is whether or not he will be able to keep the swinging balls at bay. With India’s next major assignment coming up against Australia in 2018-19, Rahul knows he has three more Tests to get things right.
He is no doubt a quick learner and will need to produce his best game in the remainder of the series in order to avoid the cull.