‘This is the KL Rahul we’ve been yearning to see’: Gavaskar, Shastri go ga-ga | Cricket


If Kagiso Rabada had a dream day for South Africa on the 59-over opening day at the SuperSport Park in Centurion, KL Rahul starred for India as the visitors dragged themselves to 208 for eight by stumps. Rabada put the hosts on top with his 14th career five-wicket haul, which included the dismissal of India captain Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, before Rahul single-handedly helped India stage a fightback with a crucial unbeaten knock of 70 while rallying with the lower order.

Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri were all praise for KL Rahul after his valiant fifty on Day 1 of 1st India vs South Africa Test
Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri were all praise for KL Rahul after his valiant fifty on Day 1 of 1st India vs South Africa Test

KL Rahul and his new role in the Indian Test set-up was the cynosure of the build-up to the Centurion opener. Given how matters changed since he last played a Test match for India in February this year, Rahul could have even missed the first Test. In his previous appearance, against Australia in the Border-Gavaskar series, he had opened for India. But with Yashasvi Jaiswal having impressed in that position in the West Indies tour with a stellar 157 on debut, Rahul had to look for other opportunities to make his way into the Test side.

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The 31-year-old was eventually picked as the second wicketkeeping option behind first-choice Ishan Kishan, and hence, Rahul would have missed being in the playing XI yet again. However, the latter opted out of the series citing “personal reasons”, thus making way for Rahul to feature as a wicketkeeper-batter for the first time ever in his Test career. In addition, in a bid to further adjust in the XI, he had to bat at No. 6 for the first time ever since he made his debut in the format eight years back.

Despite the challenges, Rahul fought valiantly on the bouncy Centurion track. India had lost their top three early in the innings after being put to bat first. Kohli and Shreyas Iyer then looked to revive India with their half-century stand before a brilliant spell from Rabada saw the visitors reeling at 121/6. It was then that the returning Rahul showed his class against the swing deliveries as he stitched 84 runs with numbers 8, 9 and 10 to take India to 208 for eight before rain forced an early stumps.

Elated at his stunning show, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar reckoned that this was the version of Rahul that world cricket was yearning to see for a long time, as he added that his unbeaten knock of 70 is equivalent of a century for him irrespective of what his fate lies on Day 2.

“We’ve known about his talent for such a long time, but we are getting to see it in the last eight, nine months, ever since he’s come back from this horrific injury that he had in the IPL, it’s a different Rahul. It’s a Rahul that we have been yearning to see for such a long time and such a delight to see. I said it in commentary as well that this half century to me, is as good as a century,” he told Star Sports.

The legendary batter further explained that while Rahul used to seem bit out of sorts in his earlier days, ever since he made his return post the injury break in the Asia Cup earlier in September, he has made himself absolutely “undroppable” across formats.

“When you’re out of the game for such a long time, the game that you love, the game that has given you everything, almost everything, you tend to get a different perspective, and that’s precisely what he seems to have done. And now, instead of looking at it as a chore, I think he’s looking at it as a sport and to be enjoyed. I could be completely wrong, but this is the impression I get because there’s so much positivity about his every movement. Earlier on, he used to seem a little bit lost. He’s not lost now. He’s there, very much there. And that tells you the way he’s approaching batting that century at the Asia Cup, that first game was a very good century. You could say lucky that Shreyas Iyer did hurt his back and so he got an opportunity to get into the XI. But that’s what you need in life. You need a bit of luck, but then you need to grab that with both hands. And that’s what he’s done. And now he’s made himself undroppable in all three formats,” he added.

Former India head coach Ravi Shastri too was amazed at the ease with which Rahul carried out his work on the tricky Centurion track before reckoning that the middle-order position has been appropriate for the 31-year-old.

“He has made batting look easy. When you look at his footwork and the balance, it was pretty amazing. The knock also shows that the number is right for him in Test match cricket. I think he will get a lot of runs for India in the middle order,” he had said on air.

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