India opener KL Rahul is amid a purple patch in all three formats. While Rahul has been in scintillating touch in limited-overs cricket, he has also established himself as a Test cricket since returning to the eleven last year on the England tour after being ousted for two years.
Rahul was India’s second-best batsman after Rohit Sharma in England last year, playing a key role in India taking a 2-1 lead in the unfinished series. He is India’s leading run-scorer in the ongoing South Africa series, having slammed a century in the first Test. The right-hander also has been promoted in the leadership group and captained the Test side in the second match in absence of both Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
On the other hand, wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant has come under heavy scrutiny and criticism – not only for his low returns with the bat since the England tour, but mainly for his shot selection.
In the second Test, Pant got out to a wild slash against Kagiso Rabada when India needed him to stay at the crease and extend the lead. In the third Test, while he restrained himself from playing aggressively, he failed to convert his start into a big score.
This has brought up a proposal among fans and experts: whether KL Rahul can play in the wicket-keeper batsman’s role, that would allow India to play an extra pure batsman instead of Rishabh Pant.
Former India batsman Gautam Gambhir, however, disagrees with this thought. In a discussion on Star Sports, Gambhir explained that since Rahul is the fixed opener, it would be “next to impossible” for him to open the innings after having kept the wickets for a long time in Test matches.
“I will just say Rahul as opener, [not] Rahul as keeper. If you see any wicketkeeper, if he keeps for 150 overs and then he has to play the first ball, it is next to impossible. It can work in ODIs and T20Is but you need a regular wicket-keeper in Test matches,” Gambhir said.
Gautam Gambhir opined that Rahul as an opener and a wicket-keeper is “definitely not” a wise idea, especially since he has got back in the Test side recently and shouldn’t focus away from his batting.
“Your wicketkeeper cannot be an opening batter in Tests, it can be a one-off case when you don’t have an opener. But it is not a long-term solution. So Rahul as keeper – definitely not, because you want him to score runs against the new ball and he has just started to get into the rhythm of Test cricket,” the former KKR skipper elaborated.