KL Rahul has the potential to be the 'next Sachin Tendulkar or Sunil Gavaskar' and will play a very important role in India's upcoming series against England, former India player Farokh Engineer has stated.
Interacting with Firstpost on the sidelines of CEAT awards, Engineer said, "KL Rahul is superb. Rahul could be like Gavaskar or Tendulkar according to me. He has got the potential to be a great batsman. He is very talented. He plays with a straight bat and I am very, very impressed with him."
Rahul has been in red-hot form since the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he notched up 659 runs in 14 matches. He continued his purple patch in international cricket with a Test fifty against Afghanistan and a match-winning ton against England in the first T20I.
However, runs deserted him in the next few matches and he was eventually dropped for the final ODI. That short run did raise some doubts about the Karnataka batsman's temperament but he shut them all with a convincing half-century in the warm-up match against Essex.
A number of experts believe that Rahul will be pivotal in the five-match series and Engineer shares the same opinion.
"Rahul will play a hell of a crucial role. KL Rahul will be a prime candidate. I will be very surprised and disappointed if he doesn't do well... (and I feel ) he will do well," insisted Engineer.
Having been one of the first players to play County Cricket professionally, Engineer is of the opinion that had Kohli would've benefited from his stint with Surrey if it had not been cancelled due to his injury.
"When Virat Kohli was asked to play, it was a great thing for County Cricket. Someone like Virat Kohli coming would've bolstered the English game and it would've helped Virat immensely because the last tour of England wasn't too good for him, he was a failure with the bat. Jimmy Anderson was getting him every time. So this would've given him tremendous experience.
"Virat has improved a lot since then, so I am not saying that he will fare badly. But his preparation wouldn't be as nice as it would have been had he played for Surrey. You know that would've given him more confidence and batting is all about confidence," Engineer, who played for Lancashire, opined.
Kohli did miss out on his much-anticipated county stint, but Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma turned up for Yorkshire and Sussex respectively. While Pujara struggled to get among the runs, Ishant, courtesy change of lengths, made the most of his opportunities with the ball and also scored a fifty. When asked whether Pujara's form is a worry, Engineer pointed out that acclimatizing to the conditions and understanding how the pitches behave will be helpful for both the cricketers than getting performances under their belt.
"Ishant has been a very good bowler but I am not sure if County Cricket would help him. That would help more a batsman. Getting the technique right when the ball is moving around and all that, it will certainly help Cheteshwar Pujara."
The Indian squad was not announced at the time of the interview and interestingly Engineer had both Rishabh Pant and Kuldeep Yadav in his squad.
"I would take Rishabh Pant. I like that guy's attitude and his enthusiasm and skill as well. If you don't nurture him at a young age, the boy could lose his confidence."
When asked who the key players would be, Engineer said, "Virat Kohli should play a very important part. KL Rahul, I think will play a fantastic part. If was a captain, I would certainly pick Kuldeep Yadav too. It depends whether you play him straightaway or at whose expense do you play him."
Engineer also agreed that this will be India's best chance to win a series in England given that the hosts themselves have an unsettled batting line-up and there will be an over-reliance on their four experienced players: Alastair Cook, Joe Root, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
"Absolutely. This is the best chance to win a series and we should win. I am not a gambling man but I would back our boys. I would back them through patriotism in any case but my gut feeling is that we will beat England in England because we have a very confident squad."
"They love success and success brings success but I hope they don't play IPL cricket there and adapt themselves to Test cricket which is a different thing completely." Engineer concluded