KL Rahul Should Be Dropped For World Cup 2023
71, 102, 60, 87 - these are not runs or averages, but these are strike rates of KL Rahul in his last 4 ODI series.
KL Rahul finished the year 2022 with a lowly average of 27 and strike rate of 80 in 10 ODIs. It was one of his worst-ever international calendar years, as KL Rahul struggled for big, and impactful knocks in the other two formats as well, not helped by the hernia injury he suffered after the IPL 2022.
At the start of the year 2023, KL Rahul also was given a dent professionally when he was, in terms of Wisden’s Abhishek Mukherjee, “unvicecaptained” in white-ball India teams, with Hardik Pandya being appointed the deputy to Rohit Sharma for the Sri Lanka ODIs with Rahul in the squad as a player (keeper-batter) only.
Oh, KL Rahul has been unvicecaptained.— Abhishek Mukherjee (@ovshake42) December 27, 2022
This clearly means that, in the eyes of the selectors, KL Rahul is no more a guaranteed starter in India’s limited-overs XI as he has been in the last two-three years. The selectors and the fans, of course, have been left wanting for more from KL Rahul, but the batter has disappointed more often.
The opening slot is not available for KL Rahul anymore - Rohit Sharma is the incumbent while Dhawan has recently been dropped; Gill, who averaged 70 last year in ODIs, and Kishan, who blasted the fastest double century in ODIs, are contenders for Sharma’s partner’s spot. This has meant that KL Rahul was pushed in the middle-order, and in Bangladesh played as the keeper-batter with Pant rested.
If Kishan does get the nod ahead of Gill, then KL Rahul will play only as a batter - his keeping is certainly not at par with Pant and Kishan - and will have to prove and justify his selection with the bat, the ask of which has been seemingly growing with every passing series.
For Pant, despite his struggles in T20Is, it is hard to believe that the management will look past him yet in the ODI format - he has smashed a century against England - in a series-decider - in Manchester only 3 ODI innings.
Pant’s unfortunate injury, which has ruled him out for about 4 months at least, will give KL Rahul the opportunity - 3 ODIs vs Sri Lanka and 3 vs New Zealand - to get his act together, and the management to figure out not only whether the number 4/5 role is meant for KL Rahul, but also whether KL Rahul should continue in the ODI side or not.
With the 2023 World Cup at home not too far away, the management and selectors will have to give their players ample of matches in a specific role in order to prepare them better for ODI cricket, which has been on the backseat in the last two years.
KL Rahul has done well in the past at number 5 - average of 49, strike rate of 108 in 13 innings at this position - but that was, and most will agree, a different KL Rahul the batsman. Now, in the past year, he’s looked a pale shadow of his best.