It was a breezy November morning in 2014 and I had an anchoring assignment to be completed at my disposal. Being a Mass Communication student, running out of scripts and words wasn’t a major setback ever but running out of ideas was. I had some 3-4 hours to prepare a script before leaving for the institute. Then leaped to my mind a saviour in Lokesh Rahul fondly called KL Rahul.
The flamboyant batsman was playing for South Zone in the Duleep Trophy final against Central Zone. He had already scored a hundred in the first innings and completed another one in the second. But the story didn’t end there. The Indian selectors added more matter to my script as he was awarded a place in the team that was taking on Australia in the Test series away from home.
Well, by the time he was included in the Test squad, I had already become his fan. I still remember introducing him as “Another Rahul” while talking about the youngster in front of the cameras. He had timed the ball beautifully in those two innings and had a wide variety of stroke play.
But Rahul’s Test debut didn’t go as everyone had expected. He scored 4 runs in two innings in Melbourne but was still backed by the team management and the then acting skipper Virat Kohli to play the next game as well. The right-hander didn’t let off this chance and grabbed it with both hands. In his very second game, Rahul showed composure and spent 356 minutes at the crease, facing 262 balls to score his maiden hundred in Sydney in the longest format of the game.
Cut to 2016, Harare. Rahul is now making his ODI debut against Zimbabwe. He once again wasted no time in creating history and etching his name in record books. He struck an unbeaten hundred in the very first game to become the first Indian to achieve the feat. In the same year, came his T20I debut as well. Rahul didn’t get a good start to his T20I career as he scored a duck in the first match but soon proved his worth after scoring a century against West Indies in Lauderhill. Rahul became one of the three Indian batsman to score hundreds in all three formats of the game.
But he did lose his form despite proving his worth in all formats of the game and remained in and out of the side.
Now came the big day when he was selected as the third opener in the World Cup 2019 squad. Fortunately or unfortunately, Rahul did get a chance to play as a regular opener after Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of the tournament with a thumb injury.
26, 11, 57, 30, 48, 0, 77, 111, 1. In 9 World Cup innings, he scored a ton and a half-century along with a 48. But sometimes, the stats aren’t always enough to prove a player’s talent. Rahul is surely much more than this. He is one of those few players who has been good with his technique but has lost his way in the middle.
Talking about his technique, Rahul’s leg movement is what needs focus. Apart from this, he is someone who can’t take the pressure. For instance, the last match that he played against New Zealand, Rahul should have been among the runs because he was coming into this one with a century in the previous fixture. But as soon as India lost Kohli and Rohit Sharma, Rahul too was seen going back in the hut scoring just 1.
Nevertheless, he has been picked for the West Indies tour and this is a good decision from the selectors. A player like him shouldn’t be ignored. Someone just needs to tell the 27-year-old that he has the backing and should play his natural game without taking pressure about his place in the team.