When Australia took on India in the SCG Test in 2015, the immensely talented KL Rahul gave a glimpse of his Test match credentials with a brilliant 110 off 262 balls. The opener was standing tall at the crease, employing the V-grip and playing late – the kind of game that seemed tailor-made for the longest format of the game.
However, in about 12 months’ time, Rahul was ready to show that he was a versatile batsman, who could also make a mark in T20 cricket. The opener accumulated 397 runs at a strike rate of a tad more than 146 in the IPL. Rahul 2.0 using a strong bottom-handed grip to play through the line was a different batsman to the one who wore Australia down at the SCG in 2015.
Since then he has gone on to play for the country in limited-overs formats and also found some success. However, with India having a settled opening pair – Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma – Rahul has struggled to nail down his spot in the shorter formats of the game. He has also batted at different positions in the order, making it difficult for him to stamp his authority.
In the ongoing ODI series between India and Australia, Rahul batted at number three in the first ODI before being asked to play the role of a finisher in Rajkot. This was a new challenge thrown at Rahul; the right-hander had played just once at a slot lower than the number four position in ODIs before the Rajkot game. Just that Rahul once again showed that he was a versatile batsman, finishing with a breezy 52-ball 80 to pilot his side to a match-winning – and series-levelling – total.
Here was a batsman who was ready to clear his front leg to thump Adam Zampa straight down the ground. And the audacity to loft one of the finest white-ball bowlers of this generation, Mitchell Starc, over deep extra cover for a six. The way Rahul went through the gears also opened up a possibility of him becoming the new ‘finisher’ in ODIs. In the recent past, India’s middle and lower-order batsmen have tended to struggle against hard lengths, but the Karnataka batsman has the ability to take on hit-the-deck pacers.