It had never really crystallized to me before this IPL just how talented KL Rahul really is. I have always maintained his primacy over Shikhar Dhawan in the Test lineup, especially outside Asia, but after getting the chance to watch him bat sixteen times in six weeks, I don’t believe there are many batsmen in the world than a higher ceiling than Rahul.
KL Rahul reminds me of Martin Guptill, in the cleanness and ruthlessness of his strokeplay, but he boasts a tighter technique than the Kiwi. He has shown the ability over the course of this tournament to temper his aggression and bat through the innings, while maintaining the ability to pick a gap at will.
It is laughable now to think that we have, at times, preferred Manish Pandey over Rahul in the ODI side. Rahul is 26. That is too old to be designated as a rotational player if you are as talented as Rahul. That talent loses confidence and becomes a shadow of its former self all too quickly and consistently if isolated from the developmental furnace of international cricket for too long. The top three in the ODI side are settled- any of the other positions apart from a floating MS Dhoni are essentially up for grabs, and it is very hard to imagine any other batsman in India playing their role better than Rahul would.
The need for Rahul is even greater in Test cricket. Rahul was India’s first choice opener, but a shoulder injury sidelined him, and now he finds himself in perennial battle for the a spot alongside Vijay and Dhawan. The competition is bred out of India’s own curse of plenty; any other nation in the world would kill for our depth in batting talent, but it turns into a logistical nightmare for us. This dilemma is exacerbated by Kohli’s insistence on playing five genuine bowling options. While the aggression is laudable, the fact is that Hardik Pandya still has a long way to go before he has the skill set and temperament to play as a genuine Test all-rounder.
India would be better off for the upcoming overseas tours with forcing Rahul into the lineup, even if that means playing him at No.6. India never dropped Laxman for a bowling option. It’s time to recognize the talent, and understand that whether or not we select Rahul and stick with him at this moment could make or break a genuinely great career.
Images: KL Rahul Instagram