India have come a long way to become a powerhouse of world cricket again. Their success story in recent times comes down to a bunch of belligerent individuals who have changed the shape of cricket in the India and KL Rahul is one among them. He is, without a doubt, a game-changer in modern-day cricket.
"You have to be patient with him. He’s got something special. He is a serious talent. You need to give him time. I think Rahul has to understand his own game, which he is doing now. It’s when he tries to be somebody else when the problem starts. If he understands his game and plays to his strengths, which I see happening very soon, he’s got tremendous potential," said Ravi Shastri addressing how crucial Rahul's role is in the Virat Kohli-led side.
Shastri knows it and so should the rest of the cricket world by now. It is difficult to ignore a player of the calibre of Rahul, notwithstanding the quality that is already there in the Indian batting line-up.
The 24-year-old has come through the ranks of Karnataka's Ranji side and is a proper textbook batsman. Although there is no denying that he has been a bit off colour of late largely due to injuries, what's worth addressing is that he is capable of playing any role that his team demands.
If anybody still has a doubt about Rahul's importance in the team when he is fit, here's what Kohli had to say:
"He is not arrogant. He is confident and humble – a rare combination. He knows what he exactly wants to do, so that's a great thing. I wish I was as smart as him when I was 24," the Indian captain said after India's 75-run win over England in the third T20I in Bengaluru.
Although the problem lies in his inconsistent performances that have overshadowed his imperious knocks, one must admit that it was a delight to watch him take on the fiery pacers Down Under, when he put Mitchell Starc and Co to the sword in the first innings of the fourth Test at Sydney in the 2014-15 series.
In the fifth and final Test against England in Chennai in December, he was criticised for playing a lazy shot which left him stranded a run shy of 200. He became the ninth batsman in the history of Test cricket to fall on 199 and he would have had himself to blame.
But let's talk about the positives from that innings. It was the flattest of pitches and England had posted 477 in the first innings. Murali Vijay had injured his arm while fielding; so all eyes were on Rahul and Parthiv Patel to steady the innings.
But after Parthiv was sent back, Rahul paired with Karun Nair. They had played together during their time at the NITK English-medium School in Bangalore and then for Karnataka. What ensued was a typical Rahul show as he read the situation before anybody else and relentlessly took on the English bowlers. Well, that has been one of his strengths.
The 'inconsistent' tag has done the damage, though he should not worry about what has been said behind his back. The only thing Rahul should worry about is the ebb he is going through in his career. He has also been breathing down the necks of the current openers now that he is back and fit. Although he has been unlucky quite a few times, making the starting eleven as a substitute for Murali Vijay or Shikhar Dhawan. Rahul's Test average of 38.42 may not be all that flattering, but he has a chance to give a reminder of what he is capable of with a good show against Australia.
Rahul's strength lies in his ability to read and the basics. He has made centuries in all three formats which proves that he has the ability to adapt. He was also the leading run-getter in the three-match series against Zimbabwe in 2016 which handed him the Man of the Series award. Moreover, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has changed the way Rahul looks at cricket. A hold on all three formats is a rare quality, and that is what Rahul possesses.
"The simpler I keep things, the more rewards I get. I do the job entrusted to me by the team", Rahul was quoted as saying by the Bangalore Mirror. Not only has Rahul been a practitioner of textbook cricket, he also has the tendency to play shots out of the book in the shorter formats. The real test for him, however, comes in the shape of the Australia series, in which he will be facing bowlers like Starc and Josh Hazelwood.
A fit-again Rahul will be up and running in the upcoming series as another heartbreak will be hard for him to digest. But one thing is certain: Rahul has what it takes to deliver.