Press conferences are generally dull and mundane. Unless a Virat Kohli comes out all guns blazing against the BCCI top brass or current India coach Rahul Dravid, who has forever been considered the good boy of Indian cricket, hesitates to say a four-letter word which starts with s.
Most of the time, the words said at the presser backfire. In the ongoing Asia Cup, Bangladesh team director Khaled Mahmud said Sri Lanka doesn’t have a world-class bowler before his team lost the game by two wickets. Bangladesh had only themselves to blame for their ill-disciplined bowling, conceding eight wides and four no-balls to ruin the early good work of their batsmen.
Earlier this year, during the West Indies series, when asked about Virat Kohli’s form, India captain Rohit Sharma nonchalantly asked: “Virat Kohli ko confidence ki zaroorat hai? Kya baat kar rahe ho, yaar. (Virat Kohli needs confidence? What are you talking about!).”
Six months down the line, Kohli opened up about how he was struggling with confidence and trying to fake his intensity.
In the recent past, KL Rahul, who is tipped to take over the baton from Sharma in the future, has completely changed his approach in T2O cricket. From being an aggressive opener, he has become an anchor, and his lack of intent in the Powerplay has cost India and his IPL teams (Punjab Kings and Lucknow Super Giants) in the recent past.
Not to forget, when he was captain of the Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings), he defended his changed approach saying, “Strike rates are very, very overrated.”
The right-hander is making a comeback after a string of injuries and Covid, and could be cut some slack, but his tempered-down approach in T20Is has been questionable for the past few years.
In 58 T20Is (before the India vs Pakistan Super Four tie in the Asia Cup), Rahul has scored 1,867 runs at a strike rate of 140.90, including two centuries.
Let’s divide his T20I international career into two phases:
In the first 29 games, Rahul scored 899 runs at a strike rate of 150.58. Both of his T20Is centuries have come during this period. In the next 29 games, 968 runs came at a strike rate of 132.96. In his last 20 T20Is, Rahul’s strike rate has come down to 126.71.
If we compare his strike rate to England’s white-ball skipper and opener Jos Buttler, Rahul falls well short. In his last 20 T20Is, Buttler is striking at the rate of 142.31.
Meanwhile, Rahul’s opening partner Sharma’s strike rate in the last 20 games is 144.31.
Rahul’s conservative approach has been questioned in the IPL as well. Yes, he is scoring heaps of runs but is consuming too many balls. In 2018, when he moved to Punjab from Royal Challengers Bangalore, he set the tone with a 14-ball fifty against the Delhi Capitals (then Delhi Daredevils). It is still the fastest fifty in IPL history. He ended up with 659 runs at a strike rate of 158.41.
Since then, his scoring rate in the IPL has gone down drastically. In 2019, he scored 593 runs at 135.38, followed by 670 (SR:129.34) in 2020, 626 runs (138.80) in 2021, and 616 runs (135.38) for LSG in their inaugural season in 2022.
Sharma, in his recent interviews, has repeatedly said how a disappointing campaign at the last T20 World Cup has forced the Indian team to bring about a radical change in its attitude and approach. He has talked about a more aggressive batting style, and it will be interesting to see how the team management deals with Rahul’s batting approach, with Sanju Samson and Deepak Hooda waiting in the wings.
Rahul might get to play the whole Asia Cup, considering the other Rahul loves to give players a longer rope. But with Virat Kohli back among runs, India certainly can’t afford to have two players in the anchor role and leave the dirty job to the likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya.