Karnataka batsman KL Rahul became the second Indian batsman to score two hundreds in T20I cricket when he smoked 101* against England in the first T20I at Manchester. It was a grand comeback to the team by Rahul, who fought off competition from many other batsmen to get into playing XI.
Born on April 18, 1992, in Mangalore, Kannanur Lokesh Rahul took up cricket at the age of 11 and moved to Bangalore at the age of 18 to pursue cricket further. He made his Karnataka debut in 2010-11 and made his IPL debut in 2013 for RCB.
His frequent good scores in domestic cricket led him to make his India debut against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2014. He got out to terrible shots in both innings of his debut Test and it seemed like he will be banished from the cricketing circles. But he was given another chance in the next Test at SCG and he repaid the faith with a brilliant 110 as an opener.
Then he had his first tryst with many illnesses and injuries that have hampered his career so far. He was picked for the tour to Bangladesh in 2015/16 but withdrew due to dengue fever. He was then chosen for the Sri Lanka tour and scored next to nothing in the first Test, but scored his second Test century in the next Test.
Rahul is also the first Indian batsman to score a century on ODI debut, a feat he achieved against Zimbabwe in 2016. In the same year, Rahul scored his first T20I century against the West Indies in the US, making him the fastest Indian to make centuries in all three formats in just 20 innings.
He had a very good IPL in 2016 and looked to bank big on his form, but injuries kept on happening. KL Rahul scored his highest Test score of 199 against England and also hit six half-centuries against Australia in the four-Test series during that period.
At the end of 2016-17, Shikhar Dhawan was not part of the Test squad and his place in the ODI seemed under clouds too, thanks to a loss of form. KL Rahul was the only other option to replace Dhawan. But Rahul had to fly to London for his shoulder operation, which made him miss both the IPL 2017 and the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
Rahul came back, but lost his favored spot at the top of the order and had a terrible ODI series against Sri Lanka. He was also demoted to being the third-choice opener behind Dhawan and Murali Vijay in Tests.
But things changed when IPL 2018 came around, as Rahul was bought by KXIP and he had one of the best seasons in the tournament, scoring the fastest fifty in IPL history off just 14 balls and single-handedly kept KXIP in hunt of a playoffs spot.
This brought him back into the good books of the Indian team management and we saw what he did against England, coming in at no.3. His second coming in international cricket is a boon to India.
Rohit Sharma has been given enough chances in Tests to cement his place and he has blown them away. Ajinkya Rahane is inconsistent and not adept in ODI cricket and MS Dhoni is in the twilight of his career. This makes KL Rahul even more important to the Indian team so much that Virat Kohli gave up his preferred no.3 position to him in the 1st T20I against England.
KL Rahul is pacing his innings perfectly and can play foil to either Dhawan or Rohit in the opening spot. He can also open in Tests or play at no.3; since Cheteshwar Pujara is certainly not having a great time currently.
KL Rahul can be the best foil to Virat Kohli in all the three formats of the game for Team India and his wicketkeeping skills are just a bonus for the team. A big compliment came to him in form of Sunil Gavaskar as he announced that “KL Rahul is the next big thing in Indian cricket” during the IPL 2018.
From being called the next Rahul Dravid, to now being seen as one of the best batsmen in Indian team; KL Rahul is seen as the best possible option as India looks to build a team for the 2019 World Cup.
India is also preparing for the Test series against England and Australia, and the limited overs series against New Zealand in upcoming months and KL Rahul is a vital cog in this preparation. India has been searching for a long-term option for a no.4 spot in the limited overs teams and with Kohli willing to give up his spot to Rahul, this solves this conundrum itself.
By Jatin Sharma