It has always been difficult for any reserve player in India to break into the playing XI, especially when the spot he is fighting for has players of the calibre of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. For years now, the pair have emerged into a dominant force in the opening spot for India in limited-overs cricket. Hence, life has always been difficult for players who have the potential of opening for India. Well, KL Rahul might just be the right person to elaborate on this point. Despite his impressive T20I form, statistically better than Dhawan as many believe, Rahul has only played as a reserve option for India at the top of the batting order even filling the shoes when skipper Virat Kohli opts for rest. But the impending Windies series at home starting Friday (December 6), Rahul stands a golden opportunity to bag the opening spot in the absence of Dhawan.
The left-handed opening batsman incurred a knee injury on his left leg during the recently-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy earlier last month. He had picked up a deep cut on his left knee while diving during his Delhi match and was immediately rushed to the hospital.
"Dhawan suffered a deep cut on his left knee during a Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy game against Maharashtra in Surat. The BCCI Medical Team assessed him on Tuesday to review the healing of his wound. The BCCI Medical Team has suggested that Dhawan needs some more time for his stitches to come off and his wound to heal completely," BCCI said in a statement released last month before naming Sanju Samson as his replacement. However, it will be Rahul who will be highly expected to open for India alongside vice-captain Rohit Sharma.
Rahul has been in an impressive form in T20I cricket this season having amassed 192 runs in six innings at an average of 38.40 and at a strike rate of 134.26. He last played in the Bangladesh series at home in November but as a No.3 batsman, filling the space of rested Kohli. Rahul scored a half-century in the decider in Nagpur to help India win the series.
Rahul continued with his form in T20s, amassing 313 runs in eight matches in Syed Mushtaq Ali Tournament at an average of 52.16 and at a strike rate of 155.72. Rahul notched up three half-century scores en route to Karnataka's successful title-defence run.
Rahul better than Dhawan?
Well, the first glance at their overall numbers in T20Is will reveal that Rahul stands tall against Dhawan in every respect. Besides having a better strike rate, average than the left-handed batsman, Rahul is also flexible down the batting order and can be used as a No.3 or 4 option as well. And pertaining to numbers just as an opener, Rahul still stands ahead of Dhawan with a stunning average of 41 and a strike rate of over 140 as compared to Dhawan's 27.85 and 128.21, respectively. Rahul also has a better average and strike rate - second only to Kohli - among Indians since the start of 2018 and is the third-highest run-getter in the format.
Indian batsmen in T20Is since 2018...
Yes, Dhawan stands atop in the list with 961 runs in 29 matches and it been largely owing to his stellar 2018 season where he managed 689 runs at 40.52 with a strike rate of 147.22 -- the most by any cricketer in the format in the calendar year. 2018 is also the only year when Dhawan out-scored his teammates in a calendar year implying his continuous struggle to maintain consistency. Moreover, according to Cricbuzz, Dhawan's average strike rate of 134.50 improves only a tad bit when the fielding restrictions are removed as opposed to Rohit and Rahul who increase it by 36.
Hence, with Rahul taking his usual spot without the fear of being benched, it leaves him with the golden opportunity to seal the deal by proving his worth.