Against Australia and South Africa in the home series, KL Rahul was out of the gates from the start. On the belters of Nagpur, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati he was ultra aggressive against the pacers and scored runs. But when it comes to pitches with something for the bowlers, be it faltering tempo in the UAE and swing and seam on the fresh drop-in surfaces of Australia, Rohit Sharma’s deputy has struggled and, in Shoaib Akhtar’s words, “looked frightened”.
In his four games against Pakistan, KL Rahul has managed 35 runs, batted under 100 and been dismissed by the pacers three times.
Three or four years ago, Rahul’s play outside the stump was a little iffy, as he let his racquet hang out like a half-finished thought while hands betrayed him. He was kicked off the team. He went back, worked on it and came back. And began his famous “turning off the noise” celebration with his fingers in his ears. And what does he find these days? The problem with the incoming ball.
He can often end up playing his front pad. On air, Sunil Gavaskar said his first left foot movement got him into a problem. It’s clear from the current form that he needs to fix it. It does not move forward, backward, or stand still – one of the three crucial elements is required; Instead, he wobbles a bit and can get quite timid with his defensive kicks.
Here’s a look at KL Rahul’s recent dismissal against high quality pace bowlers:
Netherlands in Sydney (T20 World Championship)
KL Rahul lbw b van Meekeren (9 of 12b)
Paul van Meekeren, the fastest of the Dutch bowlers, got KL Rahul up to speed and the Indian batsman was pinched up front trying to get over the line.
Pakistan at MCG (T20 World Cup)
KL Rahul b Naseem Sham (4 of 8b)
Naseem Shah rolled an agonizing length just short of a good length and KL Rahul dragged it onto the stumps. It was bowled at 142 km/h. Even before he was outside, Rahul was fighting. On the first ball of India’s innings, he dead-stamped a low full toss that almost benefited Shaheen Shah Afridi in his follow-through. The next ball almost dragged him to his stumps. Perhaps the ghosts of Dubai still haunted him.
Western Australia in Perth (warm up)
KL Rahul c Morris b Tye (74 of 55b)
Despite hitting a 54-ball 74 in the second warm-up game against Western Australia, he struggled against quality attack from Jason Behrendorff, Matthew Kelly, Andrew Tye and Lance Morris.
Australia in Brisbane
KL Rahul c Agar b Maxwell (57 of 33b)
In the warm-up game against Australia, Rahul hit a 33-ball 57 and hit three sixes, all half-trackers. The moment Pat Cummins rolled in the test match channel, he was hit in the helmet.
Pakistan in Dubai (Asia Cup)
KL Rahul b Naseem Shah (0 of 1b)
It was a first T20I wicket for Naseem Shah. Bowling at 90 mph, a hesitant Rahul offered a zero shot, dangling his racquet to the outside, and unsurprisingly the ball bounced off the inside edge and landed on the stumps.
New Zealand in Dubai (T20 World Cup 2021)
KL Rahul c. Mitchell b. Southee 18 (16b)
Trent Boult and Tim Southee had made life difficult for Rahul during his stay at the Knick. In the end he threw his wicket to Tim Southee.
Pakistan in Dubai (T20 World Cup 2021)
KL Rahul b Shaheen Shah Afridi 3
Shaheen Shah Afridi breathed fire that night. India had no answers, and neither did KL Rahul, who angled him and rolled him through the gate. It was short on space, and to give Rahul some leniency, it was the mother of an unplayable Inswing delivery.