Indian opener KL Rahul’s recent success in red-ball cricket has been described by cricketer and pundit Dinesh Karthik following the all-rounder’s phenomenal display with the bat on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test between India and South Africa.
On Day 1 at the SuperSport Park in Centurion, KL Rahul’s steady century helped India build a commanding lead in the first Test, as they went to 272 for 3 at Stumps (December 26). In the process, the Indian team vice-captain became only the second Indian opener to reach a century in the country by smashing a superb 248-ball 122.
The Indian batters dominated as the opening pair survived the tense morning session unscathed and went on to put up a 117-run partnership, the seventh century partnership for Indian openers outside Asia this year, a feat they hadn’t accomplished in the previous decade.
Speaking of Rahul, he used to be very aggressive in domestic cricket, according to Karthik, which made his transition to Test cricket tough. Rahul has refined his technique and temperament to fit the demands of the longest format, according to the wicketkeeper-batsman, and has become a much-improved player after gaining confidence.
“The one thing that KL was caught up with was the way to play Test cricket because when he used to play domestic cricket he used to hit a lot of sixes to fast-bowlers over covers, over long-on, these sort of shots. So when he brought that to the table in Test match cricket, obviously it wasn’t that easy to consistently keep doing that to bowlers who bowled 140, 145+, and the odd time that you do get out playing a big shot it doesn’t look good as an opener.”
“He’s changed a few things technically like the way he stands, his position of hands, these sort of small things that he has worked on and got better at it and that has given him the confidence to go out there… The way he handled the second new ball was brilliant. The way he was leaving the ball, how late he’s playing it. He’s generally someone who goes for a cover drive and the uppercut a lot but now you can see he’s waiting on the cover drive, allowing the ball to come to him which in turn is getting him into good positions to play the right shots,” said Karthik.
Despite being a guaranteed starter in white-ball cricket, Rahul wasn’t a key part of India’s Test preparations until the trip to England earlier this year, and he only returned when Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal were injured. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the team as he went on to given India just the start they needed to gain the upper hand in the game.
Rahul and Mayank (60 off 123) set a fantastic 117-run foundation for India, which the rest of the batsmen built on to finish the first day with a total of 272-3. Karthik was also ecstatic with Rahul and Mayank’s recovery from a tight situation, as well as the plethora of opening batsmen presently available in Indian cricket.
Karthik explained, “It was a bit of a case of musical chairs there because there have been openers doing phenomenally well for India… It’s great to see both these boys, very good friends off the field as well, coming from the same state of Karnataka. And for the first time two guys from Karnataka have got a hundred run start [in international cricket] as well.“
“Things look really ominous [from] India at the moment. There’s openers galore. In the shed there’s Priyank Panchal, we have Prithvi Shaw doing well and Abhimanyu Easwaran. It’s great to see Mayank and KL grabbing the opportunity with both hands,” said Karthik.