KL Rahul: A showstopper deserves a permanent berth

Kings XI Punjab have been one of the teams to beat in this year’s Indian Premiere League (IPL) and look like a solid contender for the title. While Ravichandran Ashwin’s captaincy and Chris Gayle’s form has got a lot of attention for Punjab, one of the chief reasons for their success has been their opener KL Rahul’s sensational form.

Rahul is among the top run-scorers of the season at present with 376 runs in 9 matches at a terrific strike-rate of 162.77 along with three fifties. He has looked absolutely sublime at the top and has been playing with a certain carefree abandon that has been refreshing to watch. Rahul announced himself in the season with a record-equaling 15-ball 50 against the Delhi Daredevils. Since then he has grown from strength to strength and is currently the most important batsman for Punjab.

Initially, Rahul was getting those quick 30s and 40s but could not go on to score a formidable score. Those quick fire knocks would give the team explosive starts but Rahul had been desperate for more. He finally got to achieve this in Punjab’s last game against Rajasthan Royals at Indore, where chasing a decent score on a slow pitch Rahul initially got his slowest fifty –off 44 balls. However, he exploded in the next 10 balls and went on remain unbeaten with a sparkling 54-ball 84. It was the perfect knock in the conditions- he took his time to get settled in, did not lose composure as wickets kept falling and then took his team over the line with a calculated attack.

What has been heartening to watch is the array of exquisite and elegant strokes that Rahul has displayed throughout the season. The 26-year-old has a shot for every ball and has dominated spinners and fast bowlers alike with equal authority. His cover drives have been delightful to watch and so have been his cuts and pulls. Rahul has also been playing some innovative shots that has allowed him to get runs in the Powerplay overs.

KL Rahul’s return to form is also great news for Indian cricket. He is such a talented and composed youngster and has the ability to play on any wicket. In fact, not too long back, Rahul was being considered as the next best thing to Indian cricket after Virat Kohli and was doing well in all the formats for India. However, an unfortunate shoulder injury in early 2017, when he was in peak form, ruled him out of that year’s IPL and the ICC Champions Trophy in England. Shikhar Dhawan was recalled in his place as an opener and took the opportunity with both arms as the left-hander began amassing truckloads of runs throughout the year.

It must have been frustrating for Rahul to miss out on his place for so long. But he has been doing the only thing he can do for now – score runs. With Dhawan yet again falling into his inevitable rough patch, the chance for Rahul to return to the national team has yet again opened up.

In whatever way possible, the Indian team management simply must find a way to get Lokesh Rahul back into the Indian squad across formats. Because ignoring such a talented batsman is a cardinal sin. The Indian team requires a stable young batsman at the top who can perform the role for the next five years at least. Investing in KL Rahul should be the ideal way to go about it. He is talented, young, and mature and has all the shots in the book to survive on any conditions. He has shown time and again that he can tackle the best of bowlers and with the current form he has displayed he should be an automatic choice for India’s upcoming future.

The current Indian team needs a batsman who can take some burden off Virat Kohli’s shoulders to score runs in all formats. KL Rahul can certainly be that man for the country if given ample opportunities to excel. The question is will the Indian team management realize this? For now, one can just hope for the best and enjoy the sheer class of Rahul in the IPL.