Colombo: The return of star Indian cricketer KL Rahul to the Asia Cup squad has sparked both excitement and a selection dilemma for the team management. Rahul, who joined the squad in Colombo after recovering from a thigh injury, wasted no time in showing his prowess during his first net session. His clean striking of the ball and form resemble his pre-injury brilliance, indicating a swift return to form.
KL Rahul had been sidelined due to injury and was undergoing rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. While he exhibited fluent batting skills during his recovery, concerns arose about his ability to keep wickets for the full 50 overs due to a lingering groyne niggle stemming from his initial injury.
However, during Thursday’s net session, Rahul appeared comfortable and in control, showing no signs of being beaten for pace. He displayed a willingness to take on the bowlers aggressively, even going aerial at times. However, batting coach Vikram Rathour advised caution, particularly against left-arm pacers, where playing across the line could result in a top edge. Rahul also showcased his finesse by playing elegant shots over the covers.
India had eagerly awaited Rahul’s return, but his comeback now presents a conundrum for the team’s selectors and management. When India arrived in Sri Lanka, the assumption was that Rahul would slot back into the playing XI. However, in his absence, another wicketkeeper-batsman in the squad, Ishan Kishan, seized the opportunity and played a crucial role by scoring 82 against Pakistan at No. 5, effectively reviving India’s chances in the match.
Chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar acknowledged the challenge of choosing between the two talented wicketkeeper-batsmen, stating, “We can pick and choose between the two who will fight for a spot in the team.”
Despite Rahul’s stellar record in ODIs, India is in a unique situation, craving a left-hander in the middle order to counter leg-spinners who tend to trouble right-handed batsmen. Rahul has been an exceptional No. 5 batsman, but Kishan’s recent form, combined with his left-handed batting, has given India’s middle order the balance it needs.
While it appears that India may continue with Kishan in the short term, Rahul’s track record in the format and his ability to adapt to different batting roles make him a tempting option. Over the past two years, Rahul has established himself as India’s premier batsman in ODIs. His newfound role as a wicketkeeper has further elevated his value to the team.
During Rahul’s absence, India’s middle order has experienced inconsistency, and his return is anticipated to bring stability and depth. As the team management weighs their options, Indian cricket fans eagerly await the final XI, hoping to see both KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan make significant contributions to India’s Asia Cup campaign.