Following his gritty knock off 75* off 91 deliveries in the first ODI against Australia that influenced a five wicket win, Ravi Shastri has suggested that KL Rahul might still make it to India’s World Test Championship Final XI, and with good reason.
“He (KL) has really done well to keep the selectors interested ahead of the WTC final,” Shastri told Star Sports on Friday.
He added, “Two things, one for the ODI series when Rohit Sharma returns and the other for the WTC final… India can bolster their batting if Rahul can keep wickets. Rahul can bat in the middle-order — No. 5 or 6. In England, you have to generally keep wickets from far behind. You don’t have to keep up to the spinners a lot. He (KL) has two more ODIs to go before the IPL. He can cement his place in that Indian team.”
Rahul was removed from the Indian lineup for the third and fourth Test against Australia after a spree of low scores in the longest format. The Ahmedabad Test saw Shubman Gill score a second Test ton opening the batting and almost guarantee his place as the opener come the WTC Final against Australia starting June 7 at The Oval.
An excellent knock from @klrahul here in Mumbai when the going got tough!#TeamIndia 22 runs away from victory.
Live – https://t.co/8mvcwAwwah #INDvAUS @mastercardindia pic.twitter.com/Ct4Gq1R1ox
— BCCI (@BCCI) March 17, 2023
Rahul’s form with the bat had led to him being under the scanner and being removed from his role of Rohit Sharma’s deputy in chief. After the Delhi Test last month, former India pacer Venkatesh Prasad had taken to social media to suggest, “I have a lot of regard for KL Rahul’s talent and ability, but sadly his performances have been well below-par. A Test average of 34 after 46 Tests and more than 8 years in international cricket is ordinary. Can’t think of many who have been given so many chances. Some are just lucky to be given chances endlessly till they succeed while some aren’t allowed to.”
He had further added added, “”And to make matters worse, Rahul is the designated vice-captain… Rahul’s selection is not based on performance but favouritism . Has been consistently inconsistent and for someone who has been around for 8 years not converted potential into performances. One of the reasons why many ex-cricketers aren’t vocal despite seeing such favouritism… is the chances of losing out on potential IPL gigs. They wouldn’t want to rub the captain of a franchisee wrong way,as in today’s age most people like yes men and blind approvers. Often well wishers are your best critics but times have changed & people don’t want to be told truth.”
On Friday, chasing 189, India had lost five wickets for 83 before KL Rahul went on to add 108 runs for the sixth wicket and wrap up the chase with 61 deliveries to spare.
Another worrying case for India during the recently concluded Test series against Australia was also that of KS Bharat, who made his debut for India in the longest format in Nagpur. In four Tests, Bharat scored a mere 101 runs while also fumbling behind the stumps on multiple occasions.
Rahul’s case as a keeper batter in the absence of Rishabh Pant may not be a bad call given his form in English conditions. The right hander has amassed 614 runs at 34.11 with two centuries — one at The Oval –, and one fifty in nine Tests in England.
India qualified for the WTC final for a second straight time. In 2021, the Virat Kohli-led side had lost to New Zealand in Southampton by eight wickets.