Another day, and another single digit score for a man who must now surely be feeling the pressure – K L Rahul. The 26-year old was dismissed playing an extravagant drive, only to be caught at slip by Aaron Finch off Josh Hazlewood on the first morning of the series. For a player who has been battling poor form, is fighting for his place in the side and would have struggled to make the eleven had Prithvi Shaw not injured himself in the practice match – that shot was careless, to use a mild descriptor. This is Rahul’s ninth single-digit score in his last 20 Test innings. Since the 24th of November, 2017 (from the second Test against Sri Lanka in Nagpur), Rahul has aggregated 429 runs in 12 Tests (20 innings) at a paltry batting average of 22.57 with just one hundred and one fifty. Rahul’s average is not only the lowest amongst all specialist Indian batsmen but also lower than Hardik Pandya’s in this time-frame.
Rahul has opened in 16 of these 20 innings. His average of 22.80 as an opener in this period is the lowest amongst all the openers in the world who have scored a minimum of 300 runs in at least 10 innings in this time-frame. He has faced the second-lowest (36.5) balls per innings for an opener (minimum 10 innings) after Kieran Powell in this period. He has, on an average, spent just 59 minutes each innings at the crease.
This basically means, he is getting dismissed within an hour of the start of the Indian innings – clearly unacceptable for a Test opener. This, in turn, implies that India’s Number 3 is getting exposed to the new ball earlier than desired.
Rahul scored a brilliant hundred against England at The Oval in September this year (2018). But his last Test hundred prior to that came almost two years ago – against England in Chennai in December, 2016. Also, apart from the Oval hundred, he has just one fifty against Afghanistan since November last year. In the remaining 18 innings, he has scored just 226 runs at a dismal average of 13.29.
Rahul has been bowled 8 times, leg-before-wicket on 4 occasions and out caught the remaining 7 times he has been dismissed in this period. More recently, he has been susceptible to the in-coming delivery and has been found caught at the crease and dismissed leg-before-wicket or been cleaned up with the in-swinger. Before today, his previous nine dismissals were either bowled or LBW.
Quite visibly, Rahul has a tendency to play too many shots early in his innings, is flashy around the off-stump and has a weak defense – which explains the high number of ‘bowled’ dismissals and which also resulted in his dismissal on the first day. In order to compensate for the away-swinging delivery outside the off-stump, he is shuffling across too much and getting trapped at the crease making him a sitting duck against the in-swinger.
He is also not spending enough time at the crease and appears to be in the limited-over zone in red-ball cricket too – playing too many attacking stokes and not leaving the balls outside the off-stump and in the process perishing – as was the case on the first day.
Right-arm fast bowlers have been his nemesis and have accounted for Rahul’s wicket on 16 out of his last 19 dismissals (since November 2018).
18 scores of below 40 in his last 20 innings. Time is fast running out for Rahul as the competition for opening spots in India’s Test team is quite intense. He will be under immense scrutiny in the second innings.
First Published: December 6, 2018, 1:41 PM IST