CHENNAI: Four years ago, an extremely talented top-order India batsman embarked on a tour of England. In his maiden stint, his reputation and confidence were torn to shreds by the hosts’ pacers. But the management kept reposing their faith in him, and he has now become the ostensible willow-wielding numero uno of Test cricket.
Now, another top-order India batsman with a truckload of potential has seen his reputation being obliterated during his debut sojourn in the Old Blighty. If outswingers tolled the death knell for Virat Kohli in 2014, inswingers have done the same for KL Rahul in 2018.
If 134 runs in 10 innings was the abysmal statistic that the current India skipper had to take back home with him, Rahul has one more chance to make his “150 runs, 9 innings” burden slightly lesser. The inherent dejection of a series loss is another thread that connects these two mirror-image-like tales.
“Rahul is definitely a talented batsman; an asset for India. A primary reason for his success before this tour has been the way he has used his feet,” observed former India opener, coach and selector Anshuman Gaekwad.
“And he’s not done that in any of the innings he’s played in England. By not getting to the pitch of the ball, he has allowed it to do all sorts of things before reaching him. That, in turn, has made him more susceptible to inswingers.” It isn’t that Rahul hasn’t tried to address the chinks in his armour.
He tried to add an extra ounce of aggression at Edgbaston, but that backfired. At Lord’s, he incorporated a shuffle across off-stump to negate his tendency to lunge forward in the same line, but James Anderson exploited that technical band-aid as well. Rahul got off to a solid start at Trent Bridge, but a momentary lapse of concentration put an end to it.
At Rose Bowl, he tried to use the depth of the crease to play the ball a bit late, but that further exacerbated his woes against inswingers.
Not to mention the grubber that rattled his stumps in the second innings. Gaekwad believes that this sudden spurt of overcompensation is what has led to Rahul’s downward spiral in England and that the tourniquet the right-hander needs right now is one that is not technical, but mental.
“Even when he’s taking guard, he looks like he has been placed in a cage. It’s very evident that he’s not the same Rahul that he was before this tour; his lack of confidence is very evident. And that is precisely the reason behind his feet not moving properly,” Gaekwad said.
“He seems to be caught in two minds about moving forwards or backwards, and that leaves him trapped at the crease, which is what the likes of (Ben) Stokes, (James) Anderson, and even (Chris) Woakes have exploited a lot.
“Someone needs to sit him down and tell him that he needs to do only two things to become the Rahul he used to be: a) Take a leaf from Kohli’s book in terms of getting in a stride and using his feet, and b) Just revert back to the natural instincts that guided him before England, instead of reacting to pressure and falling prey to it.”
With a home series against West Indies lined up next, the 65-year-old feels that a bit of persistence from the Indian think tank will help prop up Rahul.
“He may have had a bad run, but sticking with him should be the way to go. That might help put some wind in his sails before India head to Australia.” Come December, we’ll all get to know if Rahul’s tale continues to mirror Kohli’s or not.