India’s tour of Australia, 2014/15 was a tour of many surprises. India went into the series with high expectations, but their challenge fizzled out meekly and by the time the Indian team reached Melbourne’s MCG for the third Test of the series, they looked down and out.
It would be MS Dhoni’s final Test and amid all that surrounded the Indian team, a new face was generating a lot of interest. A certain Kannaur Lokesh Rahul from Karnataka, was said to resemble Rahul Dravid both in temperament and technique and was scoring runs for fun in the Ranji Trophy.
Rahul scored 1,033 runs in fact for Karnataka, registering three centuries and three more scores in the nineties an an integral part of Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy victory. But, was he good enough to face the rampant Aussies? Did the Indian selectors rush the decision to play Rahul ahead of some more experienced names?
By the time he walked out to bat at 409-4 and after Ajinkya Rahane’s brilliant 147, his side could not have been more comfortable for a debutant.
Despite that, Rahul didn’t seem like the dominating Karnataka batsman from domestic cricket.
Kohli, batting at the other end, offered advice, but shortly afterwards Rahul swept a Nathan Lyon delivery from well outside off-stump and was cupped easily at backward square-leg.
His first Test innings ended after just three runs. It didn’t get any better in the second innings, Rahul promoted to bat at number three and lasting just six ball for his solitary single.
After his debut, debate raged over whether Rahul would retain his place in the side and if he had a future at the highest level.
However, Dhoni retired and Kohlil picked up the reins for the fourth Test in Sydney. In his own eccentric way of doing things, Kohli persisted with Rahul. It was a move that would define and shape Rahul’s career.
In Sydney, he was promoted to open the innings with Murali Vijay. While the latter was out for a duck, Rahul seemed to be almost unrecognisable from Melbourne.
He was determined to succeed, and remained more measured than desperate. He wanted the world to know that his debut was just an aberration and he was in full control of his destiny. The man who did not last even 20 balls one Test prior, brought up his maiden Test century from 262 this time out.
Rahul was long touted as a Test specialist but despite, or in spite, of his numerous critics, he has become an integral part of India short form plans.
A brilliant IPL 2016 season saw him score 397 runs at an average of just over 44 and at a strike rate of 146.49 as he proved to be far more than one dimensional.
KL Rahul Stats
- Tests: 8, Runs: 492, Ave: 37.84, HS: 158
- ODIs: 3, Runs: 196, Ave: 196.00, HS: 100*
- T20Is: 5, Runs: 179, Ave: 89.50, HS: 110*
Rahul’s performances in Tests earned him an ODI spot in the squad touring Zimbabwe were, it must be said against a seemingly innocuous Zimbabwean bowling attack, he seemed composed.
At 94* with India needing 4 to win, Rahul lofted one over long-on to bring up his maiden ODI century on debut. The man who struggled with his nerves not so long ago was now standing up and delivering all that was asked of him.
Fast forward a couple of months and chasing 246 off 20 overs against the West Indies in the USA, Rahul was at it again, barely taking a risk as he raced to a first T20I century, which culminated in a blistering 110 off just 51 deliveries.
Rahul, now, has a century in all three formats of the game (only the third Indian after Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma), he can keep wickets when necessary, he can open in Tests, bat in the middle-order in T20Is and ODIs and can accelerate at will.
Rahul has all the ingredients to be the perfect recipe for success.
With his bat doing all the talking, Rahul needs to persist with what he does right. The rest, as they say, will take care of itself.