Star batter K.L Rahul, who was leading India in the just-concluded ODI series in Zimbabwe, could not perform up to the expectations, which has raised questions over his place as a sure-shot opener for India in the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia.
The past few months have been very tough for Rahul, who was out of action due to a sports hernia and Covid-19. After the conclusion of IPL 2022, in which he led Lucknow Super Giants to the playoffs, the 30-year-old was scheduled to captain India in the home T20Is against South Africa but missed out owing to a groin injury.
The spell on the sidelines was extended after it was revealed that he would require surgery. Consequently, the right-hander missed the tour of England and Ireland. Thereafter, the opener was scheduled to return for the tour of the West Indies and the USA but following a positive Covid-19 result, he was advised to take a rest.
Eventually, the BCCI medical team cleared him to play in the three-match ODI series in Zimbabwe, in order to have some game time before the much-awaited 2022 Asia Cup, where he is all set to open the India innings with skipper Rohit Sharma. However, the team management must be slightly worried after his performance in the Zimbabwe series, where he looked rusty and his batting didn't give much confidence even to the fans.
The Bengaluru boy didn't get a chance to bat in the first ODI, scored just one run in the second game and hit 30 in the third, wasting the ideal opportunity to get back into the groove ahead of the Asia Cup T20.
There is no doubt that Rahul has been one of India's best openers in the last half a decade but he has also faced severe criticism from time to time. One of the biggest criticisms about the right-hander has been his slow strike rates, especially when he is capable of playing shots all-round the park.
Post the last World Cup, India under Rohit Sharma have changed their batting approach, bringing in the willingness to risk wickets upfront in search of fours and sixes -- something which is opposite to Rahul's preferred style of batting. So, it will be interesting to see the LSG skipper's batting approach in the Asia Cup.
In Rahul's absence, India have tried Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Shreyas Iyer and Sanju Samson as openers and they did a decent job. On the other hand, former India skipper Virat Kohli has also essayed that role in the past. So, India have plenty of options for the opening slot, which puts extra pressure on the star batter.
As of now, it seems that the team management will prefer Rahul as a first-choice opener along with Rohit, when India begin their 2022 Asia Cup campaign against Pakistan on August 28. But, they will certainly keep a close eye on his outings in UAE.
In case, the opener fails to deliver at the challenging stage like Asia Cup; skipper Rohit, coach Dravid and the selectors will have a serious headache before the all-important World Cup. India would definitely want to finalise their best-possible playing XI before the mega event, so a different opening option along with Rohit can be tried during the home series against Australia and South Africa.
Overall, time is running out for K.L Rahul and a big challenge awaits him at the Asia Cup, only time will tell whether he grabs the opportunity or wastes it like the Zimbabwe tour.