It will be difficult for KL Rahul to avoid scathing criticism for his protracted poor run because of the enormous expectations attached with the job, especially when past cricketers have set high standards, says former India skipper Sourav Ganguly.
Stripped of vice captaincy, Rahul hasn’t crossed 25-run mark in his last 10 Test knocks. An average of less than 35 in 47 Tests isn’t an actual realisation of his real potential.
“When you don’t score runs in India, obviously you will get flak. KL Rahul hasn’t been the only one. There have been players in the past also,” Ganguly told PTI in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of Delhi Capitals’ IPL pre-season camp.
Ganguly tried to put things in perspective as to why the Bengaluru man is being persisted with despite repeated failures.
“There’s so much focus and attention with lot of pressure on players. The team management thinks he is an important player for the team. At the end of the day, what coach and captain thinks is important,” the veteran of 113 Tests and 311 ODIs said.
While Rahul has played some quality knocks in England and Australia, Ganguly said it’s obvious that people will expect way more from a talented player like Rahul, who has managed just five Test hundreds in nine years.
“He has performed but obviously you expect a lot more from a top order batter playing for India because the standards set by others are so high.
“When you fail for a while, obviously there will be criticism. I am sure Rahul has ability and I am sure as and when he gets more opportunities, he will have to find ways to score,” he explained.
So is Rahul’s problem technical or mental? “Both,” pat comes the reply.
But the former BCCI President also gave an interesting insight into Rahul’s lack of runs as he is getting out to pacers as well as spinners in all conditions in recent times.
“It also makes it hard if you are playing on these sort of pitches as the balls are turning and bouncing. There’s uneven bounce and when you are not in form, it makes it even more harder.”
‘Shubman has to wait’
There has been a clamour to include Shubman Gill in the playing XI but Ganguly feels that the Punjab man will get his share of chances and there’s no harm if he has to wait a little bit.
But what do you tell a Shubman, who has to cool his heels when he is in red hot form? “I am sure when his time comes, he will also get a lot of opportunities. I think the selectors, the captain and the coach think of him and rate him very highly. That’s why he is playing ODIs and T20Is, and he has performed as well.
“But at the present moment, perhaps message from team management is that he has to wait.”
While India have cantered to victories in both the Tests, the top order batters except Rohit Sharma have flattered to deceive with none getting a fifty.Asked if the concept of dominant batters against spinners is sounding too alien nowadays, Ganguly replied: “I don’t think so. These are very tough wickets. I saw in the first two Tests and it’s not easy boss. Playing Ashwin, Jadeja, Lyon and the new guy Todd Murphy, it is never easy with odd ball turning square. There is unevenness, there is everything happening for spinners.”
‘This is not Steve Waugh’s Australia’
India have won two Test matches in a cumulative duration of five days of cricket and Ganguly isn’t surprised.
“India is a different beast in India. They are a pretty good team all around but in India they are pretty hard to beat. When it starts turning, they are a better side than anyone,” he was sharp in his response.
Is the scoreline of 4-0 a real possibility for India? Ganguly thinks so. “I think so. I don’t know how Australia can stop it,” he was practical while assessing Australia’s performance.
“The problem is, we keep comparing this Australian team from the teams of the past and it’s not the same. You don’t have a Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Steve and Mark Waugh, (Adam) Gilchrist, you name them. You don’t have that quality.
“Steve Smith is a great player. (David) Warner hasn’t got going, (Marnus) Labuschagne is a good player but these are tough conditions for him as well.
“The mistake we make with Australian teams is that we think they are Steve Waugh’s Australia but that’s not the case. Different players get tested differently in different conditions.”
‘Been in touch with Pant’
Ganguly is the Director of Cricket for the Delhi Capitals and one of the toughest challenges for him is to fill in the void created due to unavailability of Rishabh Pant, who met with a horrific accident and underwent surgery recently.
“I spoke to him a couple of times. Obviously he is going through a tough period, through injuries and surgeries and I wish him well. In a year’s time or may be in a couple of years’ time, he will be back playing for India,” Ganguly’s voice had a tinge of sadness as he spoke about a player he has been very fond of.
Will he like to see Pant being with the team for some time during IPL which could also help in his recovery.
“Don’t know. We will see,” Ganguly said.
DC is yet to announce Pant’s replacement and Ganguly is still undecided on who is better between young turk Abhishek Porel and domestic veteran Sheldon Jackson.
“We still need a bit of time to figure out. The next camp starts before IPL.”
While David Warner is set to lead DC, Axar Patel will be his deputy this season.
Ganguly monitored a three-day camp in Kolkata with the likes of Prithvi Shaw, Ishant Sharma, Chetan Sakariya, Manish Pandey attending along with other domestic players.
“The IPL is still a month away and the season has just started. It is difficult to get all the players together for the amount of cricket they play. There are four or five who are playing Irani Trophy. Sarfaraz has an injured finger and it’s not a broken finger. He should be okay for the IPL,” he concluded.