The only way for a batsman to respond to pressure and criticism is by letting his bat talk. KL Rahul is doing exactly that. With three half-centuries in his last four T20I innings (52, 62, 11 and 91), Rahul is firmly back in reckoning when the team is trying to sort out their best combinations for next year’s T20 World Cup and also the style of play that brings out the best in their batsmen.
The third and final T20I against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium here on Wednesday could mark the beginning of a change in India’s approach in the shortest format. Rohit Sharma was at his best during his 34-ball 71, but it was Rahul who played the longest and perhaps the most important knock. Rahul matched Sharma’s belligerence with a 56-ball 91—consisting four sixes and nine fours—without taking too many risks while maintaining the tempo throughout.
For a long time, India were considered better at chasing targets. But Rahul, Sharma and Virat Kohli have changed that perception considerably this series.
“We are looking to work on first innings if whenever we have to bat (and) start the innings,” Rahul said on Wednesday. “We start off thinking we want more than 200, or that is (how) T20 cricket (is) nowadays. No total is enough, you always feel like you are 10-15 runs short. At times we have tried to overachieve, and when you are batting first and setting a target that often happens, not just in T20 cricket but in any format.”
Losing his Test spot to Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal would have been tough for Rahul, who once had displayed similar consistency in the opening slot with seven consecutive fifties in 2016-17. But Rahul, who has made it difficult for Shikhar Dhawan to return to the T20I side, says it is important to keep pushing on.
“I will not say I will not feel it (pressure) at all,” he said. “Obviously, going in and out of the team is never easy on any player. You take a little bit of time to get used to the international pressure and oppositions, and there is no opposition (against whom) you can just walk in and score runs,” he said.
Rahul also appeared to have modified his batting stance and the back-lift of his bat. “I do not think I have worked too much, like it has not been a conscious effort. But I have seen my batting, and every batsman goes through changes. I felt that my bat-lift was coming not exactly from where I wanted it. Having time off playing cricket, I worked on it, and it is coming out well. When you score runs everything seems good isn’t it?”