KL Rahul may have clicked in the second One Day International of the ongoing series against South Africa, but the stiffness was visible. He has hardly enjoyed the opening slot and his position is one of the major problems of team India combination at present. Virat Kohli after the gritty half-century in the first game, failed today for a duck and once again the middle-order woos were quite evident.
KL Rahul played a valuable knock today especially when the situation became tricky and India lost two senior batters on quick successions in Shikhar Dhawan (29) and Virat Kohli (0). His innings of 79-ball 55 was important considering the sudden trouble Indian team was in but he was dropped twice in between on 8 and 46. He looked extra cautious throughout and the strike rate was definitely not impressive. Rahul was batting at a strike rate of 71.87 during his partnership with Dhawan and once Pant walked in, the youngster took the control completely. The partnership of 115 runs between Pant and Rahul saw the latter contributing 32 off 47. And this is not the first time that KL Rahul has not seemed to have done justice to his potential while batting at opening slot.
His numbers in the fourth and fifth position are way better than his opening stats. He is a class batter which is why he can get fitted quite easily at any position but that does not give him the comfort he gets as a typical middle-order batter. Since India already have Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma as their preferred openers and KL Rahul is just a replacement for Rohit at the top, it is high time that India think of using him a specialist middle-order batter. Rishabh Pant looks like a good fit at number five and Rahul’s numbers at fifth position is his second best. He has batted in 10 matches at the fifth position at a strike rate above 113. So instead of using him at opening position as a replacement, it is better to utilize him in the fifth position followed by Kohli and Pant at number three and four. Rahul can work as a finisher as well accompanied by one of the Iyers (Shreyas of Venkatesh) or someone like Suryakumar Yadav in the fifth and sixth positions.
On the other hand, a young batter at the top may help India’s cause. Someone like Ruturaj Gaikwad who has consistently proved his potent at different domestic games, should be given the platform. With four centuries in Vijay Hazare Trophy recently, Gaikwad is ready to be included in the set-up and can be groomed for future.