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India vs England: KL Rahul Should Use Failures to Switch Back to 2018 Mode

The last thing India need now is to play with KL Rahul's confidence in the year of the ICC T20 World Cup

India vs England: KL Rahul Should Use Failures to Switch Back to 2018 Mode

Two ducks in a row. Three ducks in the last four innings. Only 1 run in the last four matches. KL Rahul is clearing facing the heat for his last few performances in what’s now perhaps his most prolific format: T20. As is often the case in India, calls for his axing from the XI have already begun, especially now that India seemingly have another explosive opening option in Ishan Kishan.

Replies to this tweet should give a small sample of the general mood of fans:

However, as is often the case, the last few innings don’t paint a proper picture. Yes, Rahul is out of form, but do spare a thought at the circumstances under which he finds himself in. Given we last saw him in the T20I series in Australia, it’s almost easy to forget that he has been going from bubble to bubble without a game. Rahul was a part of the Test squads against Australia and England, and all he has been doing is batting at the nets and staying put in hotel rooms. It’s understandable that he could be having some restarting issues in international cricket.

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Now, even if that doesn’t sound like a convincing reason for three failures – not that you need reasons, failures can happen to just about anyone – here’s a reminder of what Rahul has done in T20Is in recent years.

KL Rahul in T20Is in 2020: 10 innings, 404 runs, avg 44.88, SR 140.76

KL Rahul in T20Is in 2019: 9 innings, 356 runs, avg 44.50, SR 142.40

KL Rahul overall in T20Is: 44 innings, 1543 runs, avg 40.60, SR 143.13.

No wonder then that Virat Kohli did not even think twice before brushing aside suggestions that Rahul’s form was a concern.

“Well, I was going through a lean patch two games ago,” he said in the post-match presentation. “He’s (Rahul) a champion player and he’ll continue to be one of our main batters along with Rohit at the top. T20 is an instinctive game and once a few shots come off… we’re not at all concerned about his form.”

Batting coach Vikram Rathour too echoed similar sentiments in the post-match press conference, saying it takes only one innings – even one shot – to find that touch again.

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The last thing India need now is to play with Rahul’s confidence in the year of the T20 World Cup. They don’t have to look too far to see how they messed up a similar situation in the lead-up to the 50-over World Cup in 2019; they dropped Ambati Rayudu on the back of a poor home series just before the World Cup and paid the price. India have also been fickle with selection in T20 cricket, dropping the likes of Dinesh Karthik and Sanju Samson in a hurry despite them playing their roles in the chances they got. As Aakash Chopra pointed out recently, frequent chops will only lead to a bunch of insecure players.

In some ways, the loss of form could ironically help Rahul regain his original T20 batting. For the last two years, especially in the IPL for Punjab Kings, he has turned anchor from aggressor. He has always been among the highest run-getters but his strike rates have come under the scanner in IPL in the last two years, particularly in IPL 2020 where he took the added responsibility on himself as captain. His slow knocks even cost them a game or two, but Rahul maintained that strike rates are overrated.

The Rahul that broke through in T20 cricket in 2018 was a lot different though: he struck at 158.41 while averaging 54.92 in IPL 2018 amassing 659 runs. His strike rate in T20Is that year was closer to 150, after which it has come down steadily to around 140 in 2020.

Now with India having depth in the batting order – at least on paper – and other X-factor players in the XI, Rahul could perhaps take the freedom of switching back to the 2018 version. The three failures this series has taken him to a nothing-to-lose zone, which can sometimes do wonders.

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