Ganguly, Kohli and their Rahuls: Can keeper-batsman be the missing piece of jigsaw yet again
Necessity is the mother of invention they say. When push comes to shove, even the most conventional of people are forced to think out of the box. Indian cricket captains, until a certain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, were known for being traditionalists in their approach. Tiger, as Pataudi was fondly called, was a pragmatic leader to say the least. With India failing to make a mark in Test matches outside the sub-continent due to paucity of talent in the pace department, Pataudi decided to play to his strengths. He introduced the spin quartet of Chandrasekhar, Prasanna, Bedi and Venkataraghavan and the rest as they say is history. These four tweakers became the pillars of India’s triumphant turn in Test cricket in late 60s and 70s, which sparked the first revolution in Indian cricket.
Almost 40 years later, pragmatism was once again the need of the hour and in Sourav Ganguly, India got a leader who changed the rules. Ganguly was a firm believer of strengthening India’s batting to succeed at the highest stage. To get that balance right, he decided to make Rahul Dravid keep wickets for India in ODIs. The experiment continued in the 2003 ICC World Cup and paid rich dividends as India’s batters carried them to the final, before losing steam in front of the invincible Aussies.
In Virat Kohli, India has found another leader who doesn’t shy away from shaking the tree. Like Ganguly, Kohli also believed in creating a team that would perform better in different conditions. The first big gamble he took was to play 5 recognised bowlers in Test cricket. Soon, the results started coming in and Kohli turned his focus towards making India a cradle for young and fiery pacers.That decision has led to India becoming a nursery of world class pacers and success has followed.
Now, his next aim is to win an ICC trophy and for that this team needs a few fixes. India has long depended on its top three to steer them to victory in limited overs cricket. An undercooked middle order has led to disappointing losses in the business end of ICC tournaments for the past 7 years and Kohli wants to bring this cycle to an end.
In KL Rahul, India has a bona fide talent who needs to be utilised better. Rahul’s limited overs career has been in the shadow of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. With the duo still going strong, Kohli has decided to create a space for Rahul in the team by using his other capability.
A part time wicket-keeper for Karnataka in first-class cricket and a regular in the IPL for Kings XI Punjab over the past two seasons, Rahul it seems could be Kohli’s missing piece as he looks to complete the ICC puzzle in Australia later this year.
“It definitely allows us to play an extra batsman. It is an important factor while choosing the side. You can look at Rahul Dravid’s example in the 2003 World Cup, when he started keeping behind the stumps, the balance of the side became a lot better and the side was able to play an extra batsman.
“KL Rahul is open to playing anywhere, because he is a proper batsman. He is not a guy who will go slam bang from ball one, but he can do what he did in Rajkot, he has reflected on what he needs to do in the past six months. It is a boost that he can keep wickets as well,” Kohli said after India’s series-clinching win against Australia in Bengaluru.
Rishabh Pant’s inability to make the most of Dhoni’s absence has opened the door for this experiment and Rahul has done no harm to his chances with a good display against Aussies in the 50-over format.
It now remains to be seen whether KL Rahul can indeed help India and Kohli win the ICC silverware that in coach Ravi Shastri’s words has become an obsession for this unit.
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