ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: KL Rahul, MSD’s salvo in the middle-order

Omkar Paranjape
Wednesday, 29 May 2019

KL Rahul shines in a sort of audition for No. 4 spot with hundred vs Bangladesh

London: When the selectors announced the Indian squad for the ICC World Cup, pundits and former players were quick to point out the middle-order as India’s weak link in the early previews. And to a certain extent they were right too!

Batting positions No 4, 5 and six have been India’s Achilles heel of late, burdening the top three of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli to do bulk of the scoring.

And when Virat Kohli was dismissed in the 19th over of India’s practice game against Bangladesh on Tuesday, India were in a place of bother at 83-3. KL Rahul then, chose the perfect moment to calm a few nerves with a decisive century, and assert himself as a serious No 4 contender ahead of Vijay Shankar or Kedar Jadhav.

It was more or less moment of truth for Rahul, who for so long had to live in the uncertainty surrounding his place in the playing XI.

Rahul and MS Dhoni, who too made a brilliant century, stitched a partnership of 164 runs to bring India back in the game. Rahul’s ton seems to have solved India’s No 4 quandary ahead of the World Cup. After his departure, Dhoni took the charge and helped India cross 300.

Relief for the men  in blue
Captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri were delighted as they cheered Rahul from the dressing room when the No. 4 batsman got to the 3-figure mark. Rahul had made only 6 before chopping on in India’s first warm-up match against New Zealand last week after being sent in at No. 4.

However, Rahul made good use of the opportunity that came his way. He looked in great touch from the word go and played an array of elegant shots against the Bangladesh pacers.

Work to be done
The 27-year-old batsman’s prolonged bad patches is something that worries the experts and irks the supporters. For the last two years, he has been hitting the ball perfectly well in the Indian Premier League (IPL) but has failed to replicate the same in international cricket.

He had a poor 2018 despite scoring a couple of hundreds and with just one ODI under his belt in 2019, the Karnataka batsman’s selection in the World Cup squad was looked upon with suspicion by many. His knock against Bangladesh will silence his critics for some time at least.

It is needless to say that the number four spot is very crucial in the 50-over format and a batsman is expected to anchor an innings and accelerate towards the end. Rotating the strike too, is important and that is where Rahul has his work cut-out.

Facing Bangladesh was not the sternest test India would face in next two odd months, what mattered was India’s middle-order clicked just at the right time, exactly something that the doctor ordered for India.

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