Dubai: With the World Cup is reaching its climax, all eyes of the Indian fans will be on skipper Rohit Sharma and ace batter Virat Kohli. But the talented KL Rahul’s efforts have gone unnoticed and he is flying under the radar despite shouldering great responsibilities in front and behind the stumps during the Cricket World Cup.
The 31-year-old Karnataka batter returned to the Indian team after battling injuries and when he was named in Asia Cup squad, many questioned the decision of the team management to select him for the continental championship. To make matters worse, Rahul suffered a niggle during preparations for the Asia Cup and was ruled out of the initial phase of the tournament.
Still, the team management backed him and took him along. The Indian management needs plenty of praise for backing the players, who have performed in the past, at their times of need. Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami have all were given full support. The Shreyas 28-year-old batter regained his spot in the team after a lengthy absence due to injury, while Kohli was going through a lean patch, the team backed him to come good and he has repaid their faith. A very healthy sign that brings the best out of the players and improves the team camaraderie.
Rahul started with a century against Pakistan in the well in the Asia Cup after taking over the additional responsibility of keeping the wickets. Rahul showcased his importance when he walked in when India were three down for two, chasing a target of 200, against Australia in Chennai in the opener. He joined hands with Virat Kohli to guide India reach the target with an unbeaten 97.
Since then he has been scoring vital runs for Team India, that includes a century against the Netherlands. It is Rahul’s crucial partnership with Kohli that gave India the winning start. Rahul, who has moved down the order, has the technique to play both pace and spin with ease, a quality required for a No 5 batter.
Despite playing in the traditional mode, he showed that he could score quick runs against New Zealand in the semi-finals. When he walked in the final overs of the Indian innings, many must have felt Suryakumar Yadav would have been more suited for the situation, but still Rahul scored a brisk unbeaten 39 off 20 balls.
Performing under pressure
With 386 runs from nine innings, Rahul is in the 14th spot among the top run-getters in this World Cup, that is apart from the 16 dismissals he has in the 10 matches. Rahul will be once again the key for India against Australia in the final, especially if the hosts lose some early wickets.
Rahul is known to perform under pressure as he has exhibited time and again during the Indian Premier League, leading the charts while leading Punjab Kings and Lucknow Super Giants.
“The only thing I can say with confidence is you have the single greatest high-pressure player in the game playing the final tomorrow in Virat Kohli. Fortunately, there are a number of other players within the Indian team, who are also able to shoulder the burden of responsibility. And the one just orange flag is as long as the players aren’t placing too much value on Virat delivering, because if he gets a great ball and gets out early, one doesn’t want the players to get nervous. We know the fans watching will be terrified if Kohli gets out early, particularly in a chase. But there’s enough good players to be able to see the team home, but Virat is probably head and shoulders above anyone else on either team when it comes to being a high-pressure player,” Paddy Upton, South African coach and former Indian mental conditioning coach during the 2011 World Cup triumph, told Gulf News with confidence.
Rahul must be one among them.