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– By Mayank Sharma
Today, Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians will go head to head in Mohali, both having won one out of their two games. However, another thing common between the two sides are two very stylish Indian openers, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma. And we are not talking about KL Rahul’s perpetually tweaking hairstyles here. Batting, sir, batting.
KL Rahul has had a very topsy-turvy career till now. There was this batsman from Karnataka, beautiful on the eye, who had had a great domestic season. People in the cricket circuit were all eyes and ears, and the hush-hush was interrogative, all asking in one voice, “So, who’s this player?”.
KL Rahul was now in the scheme of things. Rahul in Tests was this nervy young fellow trying to find his feet, Rahul in RCB was supposedly the next big thing, and the Rahul who left RCB and went all the way up to the north of the country, KXIP, already looked the next big thing, announcing himself with a 14 ball 50. He had a great IPL and the fans of Indian cricket called for his selection and a fixed place in the side. Dhawan obliged. Dhawan had a poor run in Tests overseas and Rahul was drafted in.
However, Rahul, like all his previous stints with the national side, was inconsistent. Beautiful, yes. Easy on the eye, yes. Classy, definitely. But inconsistent. Meanwhile, another Karnataka boy, Rahul’s good friend Mayank Agarwal, was having a dream run in the domestic cricket. What happened next was that the tides turned, and the general public follows the tide. TV shows didn’t help either. Here, KL Rahul stands looking to gain lost ground.
Well, a cricketer who had had a similar path, who learnt his lessons the hard way, who was constantly on the receiving end of never-ending criticism, but most importantly, who, like Rahul, was constantly backed by the national side and got his fair share of chances, was Rohit Sharma. And he did succeed. If not immediately, eventually.
Until 2013, Rohit Sharma was this talented young cricketer who seemed to have more time than the others. What bugged the fans was that the talent was not translating into numbers and performances. Rohit Sharma was to be the next big thing, but even after playing north of 75 games, he was averaging in the regular 30s. People called for his ouster owing to his inconsistency. The likes of Manoj Tiwary were sitting out. So what turned him into the One Day giant that he is? Well, the simplest of initiatives. He was pushed up the order to open. And he hasn’t looked back since. He has got his fair share of centuries, and a handful of double centuries, if you please.
So, what shall change Rahul’s career the way it did for Rohit? Rohit Sharma in ODIs was the opener India never thought he would be. Perhaps, Rahul in Tests is not the opener India thinks he is.
KL Rahul, like Rohit Sharma, has class, talent, and backing. The question which stands is, “Can Rahul do a Rohit?”.