Spotlight on KL Rahul as India face Zimbabwe today

Rahul's form and fitness will be observed keenly when India take on Zimbabwe in a three-match series

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KL Rahul arrives for a net session. (BCCI Twitter)
KL Rahul arrives for a net session. (BCCI Twitter)


Published: Thu 18 Aug 2022, 12:35 AM

Injuries haven’t been kind to KL Rahul but, as he got ready to lead India in one more series, he couldn’t thank the team management enough for remembering his contribution in last two years while he was out for last two months.

“You might be out for two months but they haven’t forgotten what you have done for the team and the country in last two-three years. Players actually thrive in such environment,” the Indian captain said.

Rahul’s form and fitness will be observed keenly when India take on Zimbabwe in a three-match series, starting Thursday, in the 50-over format, which is fast losing popularity and struggling to retain its identity.

Supposed to be one of the most vital cogs in India’s T20 World Cup top-order, Rahul would like to make full use of the game time he gets as an opener during the three games against Regis Chakabva’s side.

Rahul’s immediate task at hand after a two-month lay-off, during which he underwent a sports hernia surgery, is to keep his opening slot in T20 cricket and adapt to the team’s philosophy of going hell for leather from ball one.

It won’t just be about runs that skipper Rohit Sharma or coach Rahul Dravid would be looking at when they monitor Rahul’s performance in Zimbabwe.

Rather they would like to check out his approach and the manner in which he is scoring runs, something he would need to tweak before that first Asia Cup game against Pakistan on August 28.

On the Harare Sports Club batting paradise where Zimbabwe chased down Bangladesh’s 300 plus and 290-odd targets in successive games in the recently-concluded series, India’s batting line-up with Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, Deepak Hooda and Sanju Samson will certainly prove to be more than a handful for hosts.

For Zimbabwe, the aim would be to become the proverbial banana peel on which Rahul and his men can slip as a series win for ‘Men in Blue’ would hardly win them any accolades but a defeat would invite sharp criticism.

The hosts therefore wouldn’t mind if the likes of Sikandar Raza, Chakabva, and Innocent Kaia repeat their batting performances from the Bangladesh encounters and show the world that the previous series win was not just a mere flash in the pan.

Gone are the days of Flower brothers (Andy and Grant), Heath Streaks (now tainted and suspended), Neil Johnsons, Murray Goodwins and Henry Olongas. It was a side that could take the mickey out of the opposition on good days.

Zimbabwe cricket, like the country itself, has gone through turmoil over the past two decades and the quality has been severely impacted.

Someone like 36-year-old Raza, 34-year-old skipper Chakabva or 34-year-old Donald Tiripano are sincere performers but would never make any opposition feel threatened. India’s tours of Zimbabwe are normally a kind of gift from ‘big brother’ to help a ‘younger’ gain financial stability. The TV and digital rights revenue from three India games will cover Zimbabwe cricket's more than half the costs for the year.

So this earns BCCI a goodwill gesture. On the cricketing part, this gives selectors a chance to look at bench strength and also jot down some of the names, who will figure in the larger picture for the 2023 50-over World Cup.

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