IND vs SA 1st Test Analysis: How KL Rahuls Fortunes Changed After Shifting To Middle-Order

KL Rahul batted India out of trouble in the first innings of the opening Test vs South Africa in Centurion. This is not the first time he has done that. The last time India were here, Rahul had hit 123 off 260 balls to help India set base for a memorable win. He was opening then but a lot has changed in Indian cricket since then. 

With the youngsters like Ishan Kishan, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill rising in the last two years wth the bat at the top order, Rahul found it tough to cement his place. Someone who started his international career as a top-order batter, Rahul had to be pushed down the batting order. He has been keeping wickets for India in ODIs for a long time now, especially after Rishabh Pant’s car accident. He has also been asked to bat in the middle order, playing the role of a finisher in the ODIs. Honestly, he has done well in that role.

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Talking specifically about Test cricket, Rahul has had his struggle with the moving ball and has been inconsistent. There have been good scores, big scores but there also have been low scores. With recurring injuries, he has found it tough to continue playing at the top. 

But this Test series vs South Africa is a start of something new for Rahul, who is looking to keep wickets in the longest format of the game and bat at four down. This place is likely to be taken back by a fit-again Rishabh Pant as and when he returns but Rahul is ensuring he is working out the ways to stay relevant in the team. 

It is also heartening to see that Rahul has found himself very comfortable in the new role. Even in the ODIs, Rahul has more than just adjusted to shifting to the middle order, playing some match-winning knocks. These change of roles for batters has worked well for Indian batters previosly as well. Rohit Sharma, for example, batted in the middle order initially for India and was very inconsistent. MS Dhoni then decided to make him open with Shikhar Dhawan and rest is history. Rohit has also become a successful Test opener today. 

Likewise, this series could be a start of long career for Rahul in the middle order. In what could be a late realisation, batting in the middle order has given Rahul a clarity of thought which he always lacked as an opener. It always seemed Rahul was guessing answers against the swinging deliveries at the start. And then would lose his wicket after being failing to find any answer.

In the middle order, he is more assured about his batting style. India batting coach Vikram Rathour underlined the same when he was speaking to the press after the end of first day’s play in Centurion. Rathour said that Rahul has clarity of what he wants to do batting in that position. “He was very clear with his game plans, what he wanted to do, defended the right balls, attacked the right balls,” said Rathour.

“He’s certainly going to be a man of crisis for us I think,” Rathour said. “Every time there are tough situations and most of the times he’s there. He’s the guy who handles those situations really well,” he concluded. 

Rahul is blossoming in his new role. India will hope that he continues to shine in the middle order while also improving his wicketkeeping skills.

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