Star wicketkeeper-batter KL Rahul’s unavailability for India’s initial matches in the Asia Cup 2023 has created quite a stir. As announced by India’s head coach, Rahul Dravid, Rahul is ruled out for the games against arch-rivals Pakistan on September 2 and Nepal on September 4.
Speaking after the conclusion of India’s training camp in Bengaluru, Dravid revealed, “KL is making good progress. However, he won’t feature in our initial matches against Pakistan and Nepal.” He added that the National Cricket Academy (NCA) would oversee Rahul’s recovery in the subsequent days, with a reassessment planned for September 4.
As things stand, if India advances, Rahul’s first appearance could be during the Super 4 stage. Meanwhile, Ishan Kishan is prepped to step into the wicketkeeper-batter role for the games against Pakistan and Nepal.
Questions about Rahul’s participation were always present. BCCI’s chief selector, Ajit Agarkar, confirmed that while Rahul was on the path to returning post a long injury hiatus, he encountered a fresh ‘niggle’, separate from his previous thigh injury. This prior injury, incurred during an IPL game, led him to undergo surgery in London, followed by rigorous rehabilitation at Bengaluru’s National Cricket Academy. While his peers, Shreyas Iyer and Jasprit Bumrah, returned to peak fitness, Rahul’s comeback was hindered by the new injury.
The Indian management remains optimistic, anticipating Rahul’s involvement in the Super 4 phase of the Asia Cup.
Who Fills KL Rahul’s Shoes?
Rahul’s temporary absence poses challenges for captain Rohit Sharma and coach Dravid. A vital cog in the team mechanism, Rahul not only dons the gloves but also solidifies the batting line-up at the pivotal No.5 position.
While Sanju Samson is a feasible substitute, signs indicate Kishan might be the preferred choice to keep wickets. The interesting conundrum, however, revolves around Kishan’s batting order. Traditionally a dynamic opener, Kishan’s efficacy down the order remains questionable.
Possible shifts in the batting order could involve opening with Kishan and Rohit, pushing talents like Shubman Gill and even Virat Kohli down the order. Former coach Ravi Shastri once hinted at Kohli’s potential to bat at No.4. However, such a move could risk unsettling arguably the world’s finest No.3 batsman and disrupt India’s intended batting dynamics, with Kohli at three and Iyer at four.