Rahul on Rahul: We back him completely

Published on Nov 01, 2022 11:10 PM IST

Despite KL Rahul’s string of poor scores, India head coach says there is no doubt who is going to open with Rohit Sharma.

Rahul Dravid interacts with media on eve of of T20 cricket match (PTI)
Rahul Dravid interacts with media on eve of of T20 cricket match (PTI)
By, Adelaide

KL Rahul’s scores in this T20 World Cup read 4, 9 and 9. Two more matches to go, both must-win, there is a murmur if Rishabh Pant should come in to open with Rohit Sharma. To this, Rahul Dravid says an unequivocal no. He feels Rahul is batting ‘superbly’, and that his style of batting is actually suited for these kinds of conditions. So, there is no real need to discuss Rahul’s future as an opener.

“I think he's a fantastic player and he's got a proven track record. He's done really well. I thought he's been batting superbly. These things can happen in a T20 game sometimes. It's been tough—it’s not been that easy for the sort of top-order batsmen. This tournament has been pretty challenging,” Dravid said at the press conference a day before India’s match against Bangladesh.

Much of this confidence and validation stems from Rahul's 33-ball 57 against Australia in a warm-up game in Brisbane before the World Cup. Laced with six boundaries and three sixes, Rahul looked comfortable playing the bounce and was particularly keen on flicking the ball off his pads. “Maybe a lot of you were not there, but in the practice game against Australia with Mitchell Starc and Patrick Cummins. It was a pretty good attack, and I thought he batted superbly that day, to get 50 or 60,” said Dravid.

“So he's actually playing really well. Just hoping it all clicks together over the next three or four games, and yeah, we know his quality, we know his ability, and he's really well suited for these kinds of conditions, these kinds of pitches. He's got a good all-around game. He's got a very good strong back-foot game which is obviously very much required in these conditions.”

Sports hernia and a bout of covid-19 kept Rahul out of the game for a while but there was never really any confusion over his place in the team.

“I think both in words and in action, I think over the last year he knows he has our support. He's known that,” said Dravid. “There's been a lot of clarity about what our side is going to be, what our squad is going to be coming into this tournament, and we haven't wavered from that for a very long time. Yes, because we play a lot of cricket, you might see a lot of different people playing in different situations, in different games. There have been a lot of injuries, including his. He's had phases where he's unfortunately been injured. But in word and in action, I think with all of our players, we've (done that). I think that's the great thing about Rohit, that he's really shown them that confidence and that belief.”

Dravid rarely comes across as pointed but this time he took a dig at the media for questioning Rahul’s form. “We've played the game enough to know that people will go through some ups and downs. We also understand the nature of Indian cricket, which there is—once you've gone past Kohli, and Kohli has scored runs, who's the next guy. Then Rahul scores runs, okay, let's look around, who's the next guy?

“That's part of the job. I don't mean that in a derogatory manner; that's just the nature of professional sport when we play this game. Actually, it's not at all difficult for us because we're very clear; we don't get swayed by what is said outside and by what people are saying.”

That Australia’s conditions have prompted a batting rethink is evident from how more teams are taking their time upfront. Dravid wants to give Rahul that wiggle room, just that extra cushion of a few balls in case the opening overs are too hostile. “We have no concerns about him. We know that when he gets going, and I've seen it against Australia, against a top-class attack just a couple of weeks ago, I know the impact this guy can make. I think in Rohit's and my mind, there's absolutely no doubt about who's going to open for us.”

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    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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