What is destiny? Ask KL Rahul.
The lad wasn’t even sure if he was going to get a match in the 5-Match Test series against England. However, thanks to the conditions, which obviously were not so good for his Karnataka-mate Mayank Agarwal, that Rahul not only featured in the opening Test but also remained in headlines for his batting technique and approach.
Shubman Gill, who was earlier ruled out of the entire tour returned to India and now management was left with the duo of Mayank Agarwal and Rohit Sharma – the deadly duo one can reckon. However, things took a massive turn one day ahead of the opening Test when Agarwal was hit by a short delivery from Mohammed Siraj in the nets, and he was ruled out of the match with a concussion soon after.
One can witness how destiny favoured KL Rahul and how things fell into place for the Karnataka-born. And two days later, at the toss, India captain Virat Kohli announced Rahul would be opening alongside Rohit – the duo everyone wanted to see in the Tests.
The 29-year old, who was playing in the Test after almost 2 years, was not at all nervous but looked confident enough as if he knew he was going to make it big. As if he knew, he was going to boss the headlines for the upcoming two days, as if he knew he is going to damage the boundaries at Nottingham and as if he knew he is going to be the show-stealer for team India.
Rahul, who smashed an excellent ton in the warm-up game against the County XI ahead of the series wasn’t even sure if he would be able to make it to the playing XI but as they say – “whatever happens happens for good”, KL is not only got a place in the playing XI but was also hailed for the damage he has done in Nottingham against English pace attack.
However, there must be things we need to analyse in the 29-year-old’s batting technique in order to differentiate between KL Rahul Version 2018 and KL Rahul Version 2021. Ready? Let’s have a look.
1. KL Rahul Absolutely Confident About Where His Off Stump Was
The biggest challenge for Rahul and Rohit – the duo which is expected to open in the upcoming T20 World Cup as well, was to remain patient with the bat. Precocity won’t take you anywhere in the longest format of the game. Want to know what patience is? Ask Murali Vijay. Recall the 2014 England tour, when M Vijay wreaked havoc in Nottingham and Lord’s.
In the first two Tests of the 2014 England tour, played at Trent Bridge and Lord’s, Vijay left 122 (first innings) and 101 (second innings) deliveries respectively, according to ESPNCricinfo. Vijay scored 146 in the first innings in Nottingham and went on to score 95 at Lord’s where India went 1-0 up having drawn the first Test.
If you would have watched M Vijay batting at Nottingham in 2014, you can clearly see the glimpses of him in KL Rahul when he was batting at the same venue two days ago. In the first innings, Rahul left 76 deliveries, which is next only to those efforts by Vijay for an Indian batsman in England since that tour.
Interestingly, rather amusingly it was also only 10 fewer deliveries than the 86 Rahul had left alone in the entire five-Test series in 2018 when he played 10 innings and faced 450 deliveries.
Do you know how he does that? Well, the answer is clear – The Karnataka-born was well aware of where his off-stump was – something he struggled with three years ago. The good idea of off-stump was letting him pick the right deliveries to play.
One of the main reasons behind KL Rahul’s settlement on the pitch was English bowlers’ outside off stump and limited full deliveries. Obviously, those deliveries weren’t offering any runs but Rahul remained patient with the bat and the rest is history.
2. Narrowed Down The Wide Stance
It took us not even an hour to notice how Rahul has narrowed down the wide stance he had in 2018.
The narrow stances make your backward movement smooth and allow you to play the shots carefully, which is what we have seen in Rahul’s case. He was assessing the ball quickly and was taking time to decide if he could play it or leave it.
From a wide stance, it becomes really difficult to move back or forward according to the demands of the ball. Especially, if it isn’t a natural stance. The batters can neither get forward towards the ball quickly enough and the back-foot play is also affected as they fail to shift the weight back in time.
Along with that, the 29-year old also straightened and shortened his backlift, which allowed Rahul to meet the ball quickly and with a full face of the bat.
One can clearly notice the direction of Rahul’s bat – pointing towards the third-slip rather than the first-slip and his toes are more towards the point rather than covers.
These changes are undoubtedly difficult to notice but help Rahul in understanding the ball’s line, length and direction. The bat alignment helps Rahul in bringing down his bat in time.
3. Change in the Defensive Technique
KL Rahul has also used a rare technique in the first Test at Nottingham, that is, he kept his bat beside the pad and in the line of the off stump, which eventually helped him as he was getting a lot more time to see the ball’s direction and line. Rahul Dravid, widely known as ‘the Wall’ in cricket World even used the same technique back in the 2002 England tour and it helped him to stay in the middle for a long time.
Thanks to all the improvement, the 29-year old managed to score 84 runs after facing 214 deliveries in the first innings, which is also the highest score by an Indian batsman in the first inning of the opening Test against England.
There were some errors of judgement, of course. Anderson and Robinson pushed Rahul to make errors. He even had a chat or two with Robinson and the latter even barged shoulder to shoulder with Rahul.
However, his dismissal came in the 69th over. It all happened on the penultimate delivery of the 69th over of India’s innings when Anderson finally received assistance from an English fielder with respect to grabbing a catch to dismiss the Karnataka-born. On a delivery which straightened after pitching, Anderson managed to induce the outside edge off Rahul’s bat as the ball went straight to Buttler’s gloves.
The chance might have come on the back of some unfortunate incidents and circumstances for his friend and team-mate, but Rahul has so far proven that he has earned this recall.