It seems crazy to think it is four years since KL Rahul made his Test match debut on India's last tour of Australia, he seems to have been on the international scene for such a short amount of time.
The first of his five Test hundreds came in his second match in Sydney and it looked as if he was all set for a long and illustrious career. He will be returning to the site of his Test debut on this tour with serious question marks over his future and a poor series with the bat could well be the end of his time in the team. While at the moment, he is the man in possession of the openers spot but a lack of runs in Australia could signal the end of his Test career, for the time being at least.
It has been an odd 2018 for Rahul. He has a Test hundred and a Test fifty to his name this year but those have been interspersed with a series of low scores. While in 2016, he finished the year with an average of 59, and in 2017 he managed 633 runs at 48, this year he has struggled. In 2018, he has scored 420 runs at an average of 24.7. It is not the kind of numbers that will secure your place in the team for the long term and not the returns you would expect from someone of the talent of Rahul.
For the whole Indian squad this Australian tour is such a huge opportunity and Rahul is one of those who can push aside some of the criticisms that he has been subjected to in recent months. Runs at the top of the order are vital to success in Australia, but so is seeing off the shine of the new Kookaburra ball. It is finding a way to score while not taking too big a risk against the likes of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood that will define Rahul's tour.
It is against the English seamers that the 26-year-old was found out this summer, and it will be against a strong Australian fast bowling cartel that he will be tested thoroughly when things get underway in Adelaide. The concern for Rahul and Indian supporters is that when he was back in home conditions against the Windies in the recently concluded Test series, he looked all at sea even when the ball wasn't moving in the air.
A 33 not out to help secure victory in the second Test after a duck and four in the two innings that preceded it at least meant he didn't go through the whole series without any form of success.
Since Rahul arrived in Australia, he has batted twice and made just 27 runs in the T20 International series, and those are not the kind of returns that make you think things have turned around for someone who has shown so much promise and has so much talent.
If Rahul is selected for the first Test, and if he continues to struggle, you can see the Indian management making a judgement to go in a different direction. You would think that teenaged Prithvi Shaw would be given a longer rope if he does struggle, in the opening few fixtures, after his excellent start against the Windies. Having made a hundred on debut and another 100 runs across two innings in his second Test, he will be persevered with even if he finds his first overseas outing more challenging.
Murali Vijay is in the squad, and if Rahul struggles, the pair in his most recent Test outing, against England at Lord's in August, may well be forgotten. The pressure is on Rahul and you are always a better player when you are out of the side and right now Rahul having made a hundred more recently than Vijay made a pair might not be enough to save him from the chop.
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