KL Rahul’s dismal performances in India’s recently concluded Test series tour against West Indies have drawn a lot of criticism from almost all corners.
Most of them worry about the fact that while the Karnataka batsman has been persisted upon in spite of his consistently mediocre outings at the batting crease, an in-form Rohit Sharma is being overlooked.
There is a lot of merit to this argument especially because the Mumbaikar was in exceptional form in the 2019 World Cup in England and had a near-perfect campaign.
The Indian ODI Vice-Captain was in Midas touch as he added a mind-boggling 648 runs to his tally in cricket’s premier competition.
The 32-year-old scored as many as five centuries in the month-long World Cup, finishing as the top run-getter.
Interesting though is the fact that KL Rahul, who was not exceptional as India’s Number 4, before he replaced an injured Shikhar Dhawan as the opener, made crucial 361 runs in the World Cup and looked mostly assured.
But what is worrying is the fact that Rahul has been inconsistent as an opener in the longest format of the game.
In the two Tests during the recent tour of the West Indies, the right-hander registered scores of 44, 38, 13 and 6.
The normally-fluent and flamboyant cricketer looked largely tentative at the crease, and looked like he could get dismissed any ball.
He has played a total of 36 international matches in Tests and has 2,006 runs to his name at an average of 34.58. These reflect meagre returns for supposedly a Test specialist.
We reckon that KL Rahul should be replaced as Test opener by Rohit Sharma and this could prove to be the right move for Virat Kohli and Co.
Rahul has not done enough with the opportunities he has been presented with, and it is time the Indian team management looked at Rohit as an alternative at the top of the order in Test cricket as well.
After the World Cup, India embarked on the tour of West Indies with a few areas and the role of a few cricketers as well to be ironed out. The opening still remains an area to work on.
Mayank Agarwal has looked good, and it would be really unfair on the youngster if he is to be axed, as he will need a few more opportunities.
KL Rahul, though, has flattered to deceive and that should create an opening for Rohit. More so because Rohit is in the form of his life, confidence is soaring high and now is definitely not the time to leave him on the bench.
There are qualms that he is temperamentally not cut out for the longest format, but 1585 runs at 39.62 does not say the same.
Rahul’s poor show with the bat could pave the way for Sharma’s return to the Indian Test set-up when the selectors meet to decide the squad for the three-match series against South Africa.
The white ball deputy, who could not make the cut in the playing XI against the West Indies, is expected to be tried out as an opener after Hanuma Vihari and Ajinkya Rahane sealed slots 5 and 6 in the batting order respectively.
Rohit’s last Test appearance for India was in the away series against Australia in 2018.
As Cheteshwar Pujara, at No 3, and skipper Virat Kohli, at No 4, automatically pick themselves, this has left head coach Ravi Shastri and Kohli with only one option, to try an explosive player at the top of the order, following the ‘Virender Sehwag impact model’.
Rahul, considered a favourite of this team management, has disappointed recently with his only notable score — 149 against England at the Oval last year — coming in a dead rubber.
Many feel that Rohit needs to be given an opportunity because he is too good a player to be left out in the cold. Moreover, after a fantastic World Cup, he would be itching to grab the opportunity to open in Tests.
With Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari settling in nicely, there is not much left to play around in the middle-order, where Rohit Sharma is frankly, a misfit.
When asked to comment, chief selctor MSK Prasad had this to say. “As selection committee we have not met after the conclusion of the West Indies tour.”
“We will definitely take this (Rohit as opener) point into consideration when we all meet and discuss about it.”
“KL (Rahul) is definitely a great talent. Of course, he is going through a bit of a tough time in Test cricket. We are definitely concerned about his form. He needs to spend more time on the wicket and regain his touch and form.”
Rahul has failed to cross the fifty-run mark in his last 12 Test innings. If this does not get the selectors to have a rethink about Rohit Sharma, nothing will.
Rohit will open for India in the T20I series against South Africa later this month. The Indian Test squad for the three-match series against the Proteas is yet to be announced.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see if the ‘Hitman’ is experimented for an opening role in the longest format of the game as well.