KL Rahul has been flawless for India at World Cup

Apart from the runs that he has scored, Rahul has also taken some terrific catches behind the stumps

By Ayaz Memon

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India's Virat Kohli (left) celebrates with KL Rahul after taking the wicket of Netherlands' captain Scott Edwards. — AFP
India's Virat Kohli (left) celebrates with KL Rahul after taking the wicket of Netherlands' captain Scott Edwards. — AFP

Published: Mon 13 Nov 2023, 9:17 PM

India finished their World Cup league assignment in immaculate style, thumping the Netherlands by 160 runs to make it nine wins from nine matches.

The cent percent strike rate is fair index of the strength of this Indian team and how well they have performed so far.

No team – not even those with much more heft than the Dutch – have been able to measure up to Rohit Sharma’s juggernaut which has delivered power-packed performances one after another.

The Netherlands were never expected to challenge the might of the Indian team, and so it transpired. Sunday’s mismatch, so to speak, only reiterated what has made India such an intimidating side in this tournament. In batting, bowling and fielding, the Dutch lagged miles behind.

There was an anomaly of sorts in that Mohammed Shami, who had scythed through batting sides in previous four matches, went wicketless. But this was balanced out with Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who hadn’t turned their arms over in a long, long while, picking up a wicket apiece.

India are a bowler short in the playing XI since Hardik Pandya got injured, and coach Rahul Dravid had indicated before the match against Netherlands that in Kohli’s inswing deliveries bowled off the wrong foot, a la Lala Amarnath, India had an undisclosed weapon.

On Sunday, two such weapons were disclosed, with Rohit too having a bowl.

This doesn’t necessarily affirm that either or both will bowl against New Zealand in Wednesday’s semifinal.

Since Pandya’s injury, India have preferred to play with five bowlers, and done splendidly, making redundant the need for a sixth bowler. Kohli or Rohit will be an option only in a compelling situation against New Zealand.

The big gain in from the match against Netherlands was the superb knocks played by Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul.

Not because both made centuries, but for the manner in which they batted, negating even the slightest doubt about them.

Prior to the tournament, both Iyer and Rahul had spent a a great deal of time nursing injury and in rehab.

Until the start of the Asia Cup, it was unsure whether they would be fit in time for the World Cup. There were other doubts too. Iyer’s ability to play short-pitched bowling, and whether playing Rahul as wicket-keeper batsman was too big a risk.

Both have proved the sceptics wrong. Iyer has grown with every innings, in the process dispelling all compunctions about his handling of short bowling. In fact, in the last couple of innings, he has punished the short stuff with relish.

Rahul made an immediate impact in the World Cup with his marvellous unbeaten 97 in the opening match against Australia. Along with Kohli, he pulled India out from a crisis, and took them to an emphatic win which set the tone for India’s fantastic campaign.

After that match, Rahul, like other top order batsmen Shubman Gill, Iyer and even Ravindra Jadeja, have had to live in the shadow of dynamic duo, Rohit and Kohli, who have lit up the tournament with their brilliance.

But Rahul was still a model of consistency, scoring runs whenever he got the opportunity. The ton on Sunday was glorious, replete with superlative strokeplay, even if it was against a minnow team.

What’s been equally impressive, and certainly more meaningful in the context of how India’s done, is Rahul’s wicket-keeping.

It’s been near flawless. He’s not just taken some terrific catches, but also kept extras down to a minimum.

Considering the variety of bowlers India have and their different skills, this was a seriously challenging task which Rahul has accomplished with aplomb.

All things considered, India have looked a complete and unbeatable unit in the league stage. But that’s in the past. The tournament, for Rohit & Co, begins now!

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