Sometimes the game can reveal hubris. At other times it will show the mirror on timidity, cunning or even confusion. Right now, KL Rahul knows it too. A muddled mind has cost him dear.
The unravelling of Rahul’s Test career this year has been painful to watch, especially since he brings with him the potential for so much batting glory. In an industry forever pining away for the next big thing, a potential star’s near complete breakdown in the Test format warrants scrutiny.
A unique game of inversion is playing out when it comes to India’s openers: Rohit Sharma’s hot white-ball form has forced selectors to yet again hope he will tide over technical deficiencies in helpful home conditions against the red ball.
Only time will tell whether the selectors have hit the nail on the head, since their hand has been forced by Rahul’s awful red-ball form, which has cost him his place in the Test squad, perhaps for a while. That leaves him with no other way back than success against the white ball. But will he get the opportunities?
Rahul’s problems offer a unique peek into the challenges of the talented modern era batsman forced to seek success in all three formats. The endless adjustment and alteration of one’s technique and mindset can often wreak havoc, stripping away the fundamentals of one’s game.
This is what we saw in the West Indies when Rahul plodded to 6 off 63 balls, exhibiting an unhinged technique in which bat would meet ball, only for bat to pull instantly pull away, as if the batsman was seeking to erase a nonexistent mistake.
Remember that he started out as a so-called Test specialist, having excelled in the first-class arena in 2013-14 as Karnataka won the Ranji Trophy, then worked hard to expand his repertoire before going on to fat IPL contracts.
A constant need for a straighter, higher backlift – either side of a rare off-field misdemeanor and ban which left him mentally exhausted – and India may just have asked too much of KL Rahul.
The nine 50-plus scored in 2017 were impressive but he has had constant problems against either the incoming ball or the short one. He was out bowled or LBW in nine consecutive innings at one point.
As Team India recalibrate their radar, with Ravi Shastri reappointed coach and a fresh target in the form of next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia, Rahul can be forgiven for thinking he is marking a token presence in the India’s T20 squad, which will play South Africa in the first of a three-game series here on Sunday.
He got a game in the West Indies only in a dead rubber when Rohit Sharma was rested, though he averages a decent 38.15 (the same as Virat Kohli) in this format since April 4, 2016, yet even in T20Is, though, he isn’t the same potent force (see stats box).
For Rahul, there is no time for squeamishness or confusion. He must now rebuild his reputation in the limited overs whenever given an opportunity. To reapply for Test credentials, he needs to trust his own game in the shorter formats. Strangely enough, Rohit Sharma may be the one to show him how it is done.
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