From a statistical point of view, not even Cheteshwar Pujara has been as consistent as KL Rahul in this series. With scores of 64, 10, 90, 51, 67 and 60 so far, Rahul has once again showed that he is a long-term opening option for India. (Dharamsala Test, Day 2 highlights)
He is aggressive, confident, possesses all the shots in the book and can get off the blocks quickly. In the context of the series though, Rahul has not done justice to either his potential or the expectations the team may have had from him. (Scorecard)
The timing and nature of his dismissals at least suggests that.
In the first Test at Pune, Rahul easily looked the most comfortable batsman on a minefield of a pitch. Having crossed his fifty and lost Murali Vijay, Pujara and Virat Kohli, it was imperative he carried on even if it meant curtailing his aggressive instincts for a while.
Giving in to the temptation of stepping out to left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe though, Rahul managed to spear the ball trying a huge heave. From 94/3, India were shot out for 105.
GIVING IT AWAY
While his first innings dismissal in Bangalore might have been dictated by the fear of running out of partners, Rahul’s second innings dismissal was untimely. Set on 51 and just five runs away from a fifty-run second-wicket partnership, Rahul couldn’t resist having a go at a full length O’Keefe delivery.
In Ranchi, India raced to one of their best starts but Rahul fell nine short of what could have been his first 100-run opening partnership of the series with Murali Vijay. And on Sunday, he again fell after working really hard to reach another fifty, this time attempting an outlandish hook to a Pat Cummins bouncer that wasn’t even in his zone.
Unlike most batsmen, Rahul prefers starting on the offensive before retreating into a more defensive approach once he gets set. In Bangalore, he was reverse-sweeping at will before cutting out his drive to reach 90. In Pune too, he had the upper hand over O’Keefe, hitting him out of the park for a first-ball six.
The manner of his dismissals suggests Rahul might be in two minds over how to take his foot off the gas gradually. That has affected India’s ambition to dominate the opposition, especially with skipper Virat Kohli not firing.
Had Rahul not gone for that untimely heave in Pune, India wouldn’t have imploded. Had Rahul been more conscious of dropping his hands to bouncers Cummins was bowling from almost his first over, India would have scored more in Ranchi, and probably in lesser time. These are small adjustments Rahul and India could have benefited from. Second day into the last Test of this series though, Rahul is yet to show that maturity to learn from his mistakes.
Doing TV commentary, former India skipper, Sunil Gavaskar, said Rahul’s previous big innings, especially the 199 against England in the final Test in Chennai in December, showed he can play long innings, but must worked hard to stay focused.
On Sunday, the lost concentration the moment he got to his fifty. And Cummins cashed in, repeatedly pitching it short and having a go at Rahul, provoking him. In the end, Cummins’ tactics worked as Rahul’s ego got the better of him.
That could well prove the deciding factor in this series-deciding Test.