When Team India’s squad for the tour of England was announced, KL Rahul wasn’t even a certainty to travel to the UK. His availability was subject to fitness. Even after he was cleared for the tour, he was nowhere near the selection radar. Shubman Gill opened with Rohit Sharma in the WTC final. After he was injured, Mayank Agarwal was set to replace him for the first Test in England. Rahul, who cracked a hundred in the practice game, was only being considered as a middle-order option. As luck would have it though, Agarwal picked up a concussion ahead of the Nottingham Test and, with no option left, India were forced to ask Rahul to open with Rohit in the opening match.
To his credit, Rahul displayed amazing resolve and grabbed his opportunity, scoring a hard-fought half-century in Nottingham. He did even better at Lord’s, cracking his sixth Test hundred. His hunger, having not played a Test for two years, has been evident in the way he has batted so far. But what has been even more impressive is his sense of purpose. During his time away from red-ball cricket, he has clearly worked very hard in his technique and deficiencies and the results of his hard work are there for everyone to see.
Rahul’s versatility a major boost
At one of the press conferences in England, Rahul admitted that he is ready to bat anywhere for the team, as per the demands and the situation. And, when the opportunity knocked on the door, he was up to the task. Had it not been for Rahul’s availability in the Test team, India would have been in a real soup in England following the injury to Gill and, later, the fitness issue with Agarwal. Not only did the soft-spoken opener utilises his much-awaited chance, but he has done so well, India will now find it difficult to replace him at the top of the order in Test matches.
The best part about having Rahul in the mix, irrespective of the formats, is the versatile skills he brings to the table. As mentioned above, he would have batted in the middle-order, if at all, if there was no opening created at the top. In the limited-overs as well, he is capable of batting anywhere in the order. He has opened the innings, been used as a floater in the middle and has delivered in both roles. Not to forget, like the original Rahul of Indian cricket (Dravid), KL has also taken the gloves when needed. India are lucky to have such a multi-talented cricketer in their mix.
An adaptable batter
One of the best qualities of Rahul is that he is highly capable of batting as per the demands of the situation. The first two Tests in England tested the 29-year-old’s technique as well as his determination, with the conditions loaded in favour of the bowlers. However, Rahul passed both ‘tests’ with flying colours. He has allowed the ball to come to him and has made the requisite adjustments. He has almost been unshakeable out in the middle. Of course, to his credit, the Karnataka batter has learnt from his past experiences and is self-admittedly in a much-better zone as opposed to his previous England Test visit, in 2018.
When the format switches, Rahul is eminently capable of turning on the aggressive mode. In fact, he has already established himself as a match-winner in the white-ball format. His Test resurgence is what would please India the most. They would hope Rahul can carry the exhilarating form into the upcoming T20 World Cup as well. For all that he offers to Indian cricket, one gets the feeling Rahul is rather undervalued. That should definitely change following his stellar performances in the ongoing Test series against England.