In his first Test innings in nearly two years, KL Rahul looked calm, assured, and ready to play the waiting game. He wasn’t rushing through his innings as has been the case in the past, waiting for the bad balls, and then, when they were on offer, he capitalised.
The result was a serene 84 off 214 deliveries in the first innings of the Trent Bridge Test against England that proved vital in India taking the lead despite a collapse.
Luck was in favour of Rahul as well. He wasn’t the first-choice opener in the lead up to the first match, and only made the cut after Mayank Agarwal was hit on the head during a practice session that ruled him out of contention.
Following his first innings effort, Rahul started well in the second dig as well with six fours in his 25 before his strokeful stay was cut short by Stuart Broad.
Agarwal’s return to the nets signals he has attained full fitness but Mohammad Kaif feels that he may have to wait for some time before getting a game as Rahul has sealed his spot in the eleven, at least for the first half of the five-match series.
“He (Rahul) will play in the next couple of matches. He has sealed the deal. In the first Test, he held up his end and looks a much improved player. Mayank will have to wait now," Kaif said during an interaction with the media on Wednesday.
Kaif observed that a striking feature of Rahul’s innings in Nottingham was the fact that he wasn’t pushing for boundaries and understood his role well.
“He has become more calm. Last time (in 2018) he looked to be rushing (for runs). This time he’s not looking to push for boundaries. He knows his role now - hang in there and when the bad ball comes, score," Kaif said.
Rahul was also part of India’s previous tour of England when he scored 299 runs across five Tests with 146 of them coming in a single innings. He was dropped after given chance in seven more Tests following the England tour having failed to score a single fifty in them.
Another reason, Kaif points out, behind Rahul’s improvement is that he’s now leading his IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab which has helped in instilling a sense of responsibility.
“Over the last two years, he has improved (as a batter), he’s captaining Punjab in IPL, and taken responsibility as a leader. His form in white-ball cricket is fantastic. He’s high on confidence, has taken stock of his game and all of this is coming together now," he said.
“His form is a great sign for Indian cricket," he added.