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Team management told an opportunity may come even in middle-order: Rahul

In the lead up to the Test series and even during the lone practice game against a County Select XI, Rahul was seen as an option for the middle-order.

Published: 10th August 2021 09:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th August 2021 09:28 AM   |  A+A-

India's KL Rahul, left, runs between the wickets past England's James Anderson during the third day of first test cricket match between England and India. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: After news filtered through that Shubman Gill would miss the Test series against England, Prithvi Shaw became the preferred choice of the team management.

Both Mayank Agarwal and the untested Abhimanyu Easwaran, a reserve opener then, were also around. One name conspicuous by its absence was KL Rahul. 

KL Rahul

In the lead up to the Test series and even during the lone practice game against a County Select XI, Rahul was seen as an option for the middle-order.

That he scored a century in this adopted role offered the team a reliable option, should the middle-order fail once again. For all the talk of an axe hanging over Cheteshwar Pujara, the team management still retains faith in him.

They value the deliveries that the No 3 eats up as it only makes the job a bit easier for batsmen on challenging conditions.

Had Hanuma Vihari, who turned out for Warwickshire in three County matches ahead of the World Test Championship final, had shown some sort of form, India may not be sweating too much about the middle-order.

But one Test into the five-match series, they are still far from convinced, especially how the middle-order crumbled during overcast conditions.

While Pujara retains the backing, it is hard to say where Ajinkya Rahane stands.

The stand-in captain, who led India admiringly to a Test series win in Australia with a depleted squad, hasn’t had a great time with the bat.

This is why Rahul was seen as a middle-order option. That he could be banked the counter the second new ball was a plus.

Which is why they even sent an SOS to Shaw. Should the middle-order continue its dry run, it won’t come as a surprise if the 21-year-old walks alongside Rohit Sharma as opener in the third Test at Headingley with Rahul finding a spot in the middle-order.

Even though Rahul looked every bit the part as an opener in Nottingham — more than the runs, the patience he showed to wear down the pacers was commendable — that he has been told by the team management to be prepared for any role with the bat suggests India may change their ‘template’ when it comes to the batting line-up.

“When you play at this level, you need to be prepared for whatever opportunity that is thrown at you. And that is how I prepared and the team management also was of the same opinion that an opportunity may come at the top or in the middle-order. So I tried to keep it simple and tried to prepare in a way where I can open or play in the middle-order. That’s been the talk. And I have had to keep changing my roles in the last two-three years (in limited-oves). So it is not new, and it doesn’t surprise me anymore. I quite enjoy it and look forward to fulfilling the role. It gives me so much confidence that the team management believes so much in me and back me to deliver,” Rahul said after the first Test.

Although Rahul gives an option in the middle-order for the team management, if Rahane doesn’t find form at Lord’s, there is no guarantee that Shaw can give the sort of start that the former provided at the top.

Since being dropped from the Test side, Shaw hasn’t played any red-ball cricket. And in Sri Lanka, a couple of his dismissals against the seaming ball showed he is still a work in progress.

In that sense, the second Test will be more of a litmus test for the middle-order, especially for Rahane, who has been missing the consistency one expects from batsmen of his calibre. 



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