Asia Cup: Time for KL Rahul to repay the faith

KL Rahul, who is the side's vice-captain, is being given a longer run at the top even though India have many option



India's KL Rahul is bowled by Pakistan's Naseem Shah during the Asia Cup match. (AFP)
India's KL Rahul is bowled by Pakistan's Naseem Shah during the Asia Cup match. (AFP)
by

James Jose

Published: Tue 30 Aug 2022, 9:31 PM

Last updated: Tue 30 Aug 2022, 9:33 PM

As India try to mount another assault on the T20 World Cup, the ongoing DP World Asia Cup is a crucial tournament as they try to firm up plans and positions.

The squad that will travel to Australia for the showpiece in October-November, is more or less rubber stamped except for a few slots, which captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid will deliberate on, before the final squad is announced.

India have shed their safety-first approach and have shifted to an attacking philosophy. The way to go now is go for broke from ball one, a philosophy England have so successfully perfected over the years.

But one of the talking points heading into the T20 World Cup is that of the top three or four and especially the opening slot.

KL Rahul, who is the side’s vice-captain, is being given a longer run at the top even though India have many options.

On Sunday, in the high-voltage clash against arch-rivals Pakistan, Rahul strode out to the middle with Rohit. And although his stay was brief, done in by the pace of young and exciting pacer Naseem Shah, it seems that India might not tinker too much during this tournament and will give Rahul a longer run.

Rahul is returning from an almost three-month lay-off after undergoing a sports hernia surgery. He had also contracted Covid and his return was delayed. The 30-year-old made his return in the One-Day International series against Zimbabwe, where he was named the captain.

And although he didn’t get to bat in the first ODI with Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill acing the chase of 190, Rahul scored one and 30 in the second and third ODIs respectively. They were meagre returns, albeit in a different format.

Prior to the Asia Cup, India experimented by sending Rishabh Pant up the order to open in the T20 series against England. And then, in the West Indies, India went left field and sent Suryakumar Yadav to open the batting.

Yadav, who normally bats at No.4, had scored 24 from 16 deliveries in the opening match against the West Indies and 11 from five balls in the second game.

Rohit explained at that time that the team management wanted the players to be flexible and be ready to bat anywhere in the batting order.

“We want the guys to be able to bat anywhere and don't want them to be batting in specific positions. We want the guys to be flexible, there are two ways to look at it depending on certain players,” Rohit had said.

Over the course of this year, India have used as many as seven openers in T20s, including southpaw Ishan Kishan. Kishan had proved to be a good option, scoring 419 runs that included three half-centuries, in the 13 T20Is he featured in.

Meanwhile, a look at Rahul’s numbers reveal he has played 11 T20Is and scored 289 runs at an average of 28.90, with his highest being 60 during the period of January 2021 and up until the Asia Cup.

In ODIs, Rahul has played 10 matches, scoring 333 runs with his highest being 108, during the same period. Rahul has scored 541 runs with his highest being 129 in seven Tests during this period.

Rahul had a productive IPL, scoring 616 runs from 15 matches, which included a 103 not out, while captaining the Lucknow Super Giants.

As mentioned before, it is highly likely that India will retain Rahul at the top and the stylish batsman could further enhance his case by scoring big against Hong Kong at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.

KL Rahul's form until the injury layoff

(From January 2021 until the start of 2022 Asia Cup)

T20I

Matches 11

Runs 289

Highest 60

Average 28.90

ODI

Matches 10

Runs 333

Highest 108

Average 41.62

TESTS

Matches 7

Runs 541

Highest 129

Average 38.64

His scores since his return from injury

1 (ODI vs Zimbabwe)

30 (ODI vs Zimbabwe)

0 (T20I vs Pakistan)

Rahul at 2022 IPL

Matches 15

Runs 616

Highest 103 not out

Average 51.33

100s 2

Strike rate 135.38

Wednesday's match

Group A

India vs Hong Kong

Dubai International Cricket Stadium

6 pm


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