India’s premier batsman KL Rahul has been in phenomenal touch, in T20s, this season. 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. 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 ahead of Shikhar Dhawan and he failed yet again. Jonny Bairstow off James Anderson’s bowling caught Rahul behind as India were pegged back at 11/2. India went on to lose the Test from there on by an innings and 159 runs.
India were bowled out for 107 and 130 in a disastrous batting scenario at Lord’s. Rahul was an epitome of this failure and managed 8 and 10 in the 2nd Test. He now has 35 runs after four innings at an average of 8.35.
So what has happened to the top-order batsman? Someone who played superbly in the T20s in Ireland and England is now facing a shadow of himself. The question comes to the fore that whether the IPL and limited-overs cricket has taken a toll over the player and his approach in Test cricket?
When Rahul came out to bat at Edgbaston, he hit the first ball for a four. The next ball he chased a wide one and it ended up crashing on to his stumps. In the second innings, he was squared up against Ben Stokes as he offered a regulation catch. At Lord's, Anderson's length delivery got him, before the 36-year-old once again got him to edge at a ball swinging late.
All these dismissals portray a dull picture.
Players like Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina have been extraordinary in ODIs and T20Is, but never got going in Test cricket. Outside the subcontinent, they couldn't handle the swinging conditions. Rahul's application shows that he is, unfortunately, following their footsteps.
Given his performances in both South Africa and England, he needs to handle several issues before he can cement his place in Test squad. The right-handed batsman was selected ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara in the 1st Test.
At Lord's, he opened the innings as Shikhar Dhawan was dropped. Rahul will get the chances, but what if he keeps failing? The Indian selectors will keep a close eye on the player and with the next big series coming up against Australia in 2018-2019; Rahul will be monitored based on his performances.
So far he hasn’t assured the skipper and the management that he deserves another go. That’s where the likes of top Ranji players could come into the fray and be tried out. The likes of Mayank Agarwal could get a look in after being consistent with the bat.
Rahul needs to work hard on his batting and play a lot of County cricket to be able to perform well overseas. But will he get the time? For a player that will keep going in limited-overs and IPL needs to decide his preference of formats.
He has a bleak picture, as far India’s Test cricket is concerned. The T20 playing Rahul is one of the best batsmen in the world. 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 in the longest format.