England expose Rahul's chinks

England expose Rahul's chinks

DISAPPOINTING: K L Rahul walks off after being given out lbw in the first innings of the fourth Test at the Aegeas Bowl in Southampton. AP-PTI

A lot was expected from the willow of KL Rahul on this England Test tour. Blessed with natural talent and a polished technique, the gifted youngster was supposed to take his game to the next level. Sadly, he’s endured only disappointment.

Like all teams before the start of a major series, England did their homework on the 26-year-old and found out that he has a weakness against the in-swinger. While Rahul plays the ball moving away quite confidently, England noticed the right-hander struggles to cope with the ball coming in and they’ve exploited that to the hilt to leave him befuddled.

In the four Test matches so far, Rahul has been bowled on three occasions and trapped leg before wicket on another three occasions. Just 113 runs at an average of 14.13 is a piece of statistic that definitely he didn’t think he’ll come up with after having kick-started the long tour with a blistering ton in the opening T20I.

While he has got a couple of unplayable deliveries this series that would have breached anybody’s defences, on other occasions he has only himself to blame. Seemingly clueless on how to deal with the in-swinger, Rahul has looked tentative at the crease. Barring the two innings at Nottingham where he scored 23 and 36 in perhaps the less hostile batting conditions, he’s appeared vulnerable and unsettled.

He’s always appeared to be imagining about the dreaded in-swinger and as and when it comes, he’s looked all at sea — the lack of footwork and technique to cope with it horribly exposed.

Former India opener Wasim Jaffer, who played five Test matches in England, felt coping with the in-swinger is more challenging than the out-swinger. “The ball coming in is always hard because you have no choice but to play at it whereas with the out-swinger, if you know where your off-stump is, you can leave them. (James) Anderson and (Stuart) Broad have been relentless in attacking Rahul on that front. They are experienced and have opened him up quite well. That’s what England does to a player. It challenges your technique, no matter how good you are. The Duke’s ball also makes life extremely hard. It’s hard times if you are an opener here. It’s not just Rahul but openers from both sides are struggling. You need a bit of luck and I think he’s had very little going his way.”

While it is clear that Rahul has not made the required technical adjustments, the Karnataka player doesn’t have to start panicking. Although the poor returns from the tour of South Africa where he scored just 30 runs from two matches will be playing on his mind, he needs to understand these two countries are not the easiest for travelling batsman. They have plenty of adjustments to make in these differing conditions. Even skipper Virat Kohli’s reputation was left tarnished by Anderson and Co in 2014. But Kohli, like all great players, nursed those wounds inside him for four years before setting a new benchmark with a series of top-draw performances this time around.

The selectors and management should also persist with Rahul for he is a genuinely good talent who needs a bit of repair work and a heavy infusion of confidence. Rahul has also shaped himself into an excellent slip catcher. With Murali Vijay seemingly being phased out slowly and Shikhar Dhawan looking vulnerable on non-Asian pitches, India needs to invest in Rahul. He’s the number one opener India have got with guys like Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw yet to even make their India debut. There have been many players who have turned their games around with the help of the long rope and Rahul has the capabilities to do so.

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