India’s KL Rahul plays a shot during the fifth T20 match against New Zealand at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.
India’s KL Rahul plays a shot during the fifth T20 match against New Zealand at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui. Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: KL Rahul striking a purple patch has put the debate on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s return to international cricket to the back burner, at least for now.

The talented right-handed batsman has been proving a perfect replacement for Dhoni in the shorter format, by default more than design.

Rahul’s form was so crucial that he finished as the man of the series in the five-match Twenty20 event against New Zealand, which India won 5-0 after clinching the final by seven runs at Mount Maunganui on Sunday.

With Rishabh Pant failing to live up to the expectations of filling in the big boots of the former India captain Dhoni, both behind the wickets and with his batting, his untimely concussion has forced the brains behind Indian team to think overtime and come up with a stopgap solution, which, in fact, has proved to be a master stroke in bringing the balance of the team back.

A deeper look

KL Rahul

Cricket, as the adage goes, is more a mind game than physical, hence let’s look at the psyche of Rahul’s transformation as a match-winner in recent times.

Rahul is not totally out of touch with his wicketkeeping and has been keeping wickets for his IPL team and also the state team when required in recent times.

However, a role as a keeper has helped Rahul cement his place in the playing XI on a permanent basis, which would have eased his worries of retaining his position and enabled him to focus on his game and play with plenty of freedom.

A look at his performance chart will confirm the fact. The opener started well during the early days of his career, especially in Tests, but then went on a prolonged slump.

One reason could be that he must have felt threatened over keeping his position, especially against the likes of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.

But with his position assured as a wicketkeeper, Rahul is not under any undue pressure and that reflects in the assured manner he bats, which is a big blessing for the Indian team.

Historically, stopgap arrangements have been a gambit for historic event that unfolded years later. As a case in point, the swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag, only Indian batsman to have scored two triple centuries in Tests, started as a middle-order batsman before moving up the order. The rest, as they say, is history.

There are many such instances in Indian cricket, and in world cricket, including the current head coach Ravi Shastri, who as a makeshift opener was adjudged the Champion of Champions during India’s triumph in the World Championship in Australia and a double-century to his credit in Sydney Test, which was incidentally the debut game of Shane Warne. Even Sharma adopted to his new role as an opener from being a middle-order batsman.

The fact of the matter is, Dhoni is irreplaceable in Indian cricket. For decades, India couldn’t find a wicketkeeper-batsman who could steer the team home in crunch situations.

Handling these two roles in itself was an Herculean task and add the role of captaincy, which is considered the toughest in Indian cricket history, given his predecessor’s fate in that position.

Instead of succumbing under pressure, Dhoni raised his game a few notches higher.

However, if and when Dhoni calls it quits, in all possibility he could nonchalantly do just like discarding an used railway ticket he would have collected as a ticket collector, Indian cricket fans will have to tip their hat to this great leader and the dreaded finisher in modern day cricket.

All in all skipper Virat Kohli will not be complaining about the problem of plenty he will face ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia this year.