KL Rahul again reminds India of his value as Twenty20 opener
Young opening batsman KL Rahul has cashed in on Shikhar Dhawan’s absence, hitting a brilliant 89, his second half-century in this Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka.cricket Updated: Dec 22, 2017 23:00 IST
KL Rahul, despite his fluency and the ease with which he hit eight sixes and five fours, was upstaged, his name drowned in the roars for Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni, who came in one-drop in the second T20 International at the Holkar Stadium here on Friday. (IND v SL 2nd T20 highlights | Scorecard)
The Karnataka batsman played a key role, holding one end up and providing valuable support as his skipper of the day blazed a second T20 International century in 35 balls to equal the fastest ever in the shortest format.
In one-dayers, Rahul, like Ajinkya Rahane, has been pushed up and down the order as India have not exactly got a solution for the unsettled middle-order. He is an opener but was made to bat at No 3, 4 and 5 in the ODI series in Sri Lanka, returning below par scores.
Since then he has not played an ODI, getting an opportunity in this T20 series only because Shikhar Dhawan opted out.
While it reflects India’s bench strength, it also shows some sort of confusion. The Indian team management’s insistence on having Ajinkya Rahane only as an opener in ODIs has left a void in the middle, where Rahul was one among the many tried without encouraging results.
Trying Shikhar in ODIs at the top with Rohit Sharma is fine as he has a better average than Rahane and Rahul, but picking him ahead of Rahul in T20 Internationals defies logic.
Rahul has, in fact, far better average in T20 Internationals (over 50) than in the other two formats, and whatever opportunities he has got, he has done well. After his century in Lauderhill against West Indies last year, he has played seven T20 games and given India starts in most of them. India have played 12 T20s in the period.
This series, where he has struck fifties in both matches, though should help him settle at the top and may push Dhawan out.
Former India coach and batsman Anshuman Gaekwad backs Rahul. “He is best suited for the limited-overs format as he is a good stroke-player. He has a variety of shots. Even in Tests, you see how fluent he is and also gets a big score. If he has to play T20 Internationals, he has got to bat at the opening slot,” Gaekwad told Hindustan Times on Friday.
India play the final T20 of this series in Mumbai on December 26 before leaving for South Africa, where they play T20s only in late February. While the initial focus will be on Tests, they will do well to ensure Rahul flies there, at least assured of the T20 opening slot.
Stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma refused to be drawn into a comparison between KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan when asked about his choice of an opening partner. Rohit said, “Both are good batsmen but I will be captaining for one more match where Rahul will play. After that Virat takes over. He’ll decide on who’ll play. The next T20 series is some time away.”