Another Rahul at number 3

As I was boarding the train to Saharsa my phone rang, it was Alok, a very close friend who I fondly call Aaloo. He is one guy who I can talk cricket with anytime and anywhere! We’d sit and watch Test matches of other nations than India, resulting in a mouthful from most of our friends, not to mention a certain “Chinu Bhaiya”.

“Doosre country ka Test match kaun dekhta hai be?” They would howl!

Only if they understood the beauty and thrill of a test match! The adrenaline of a perfect out-swinger on a seaming track, the pump of a flying slip cordon, the speed of those deadly in-swinging Yorkers! Only if they could!

Aaloo: “Dude where are you? Match dekh raha kya?” and before I could answer, “KL one down aya hai!”

What’s with this one down or the number three conundrum? Why is this the most talked about batting position? I used to wonder growing up!

Every cricket lover can relate to a certain Rahul and number 3, such beautiful had been their love affair. Cricket pundits world over have often advocated the use of the best batsman or technically the most sound batsman of the team at number 3. Come to think of number 3 in Test cricket for India and the only name that pops up is Rahul Dravid; a genius, a true blue gentleman, a fabulous cricketer, a complete team man and a legend!

Another angle of looking at it, is, he batted ahead of someone known as Sachin Tendulkar, THE Sachin Tendulkar, some good food for thought! it has been argued by cricket lovers world over that Rahul Dravid possessed a better technique when the conditions were challenging, like the ones in England. To each their own but when a player like Jacques Kallis rates Dravid as good as the game has ever seen, you can’t help but look deep into it and try to get numbers and analytics to your rescue. A quick glimpse at the test numbers for RD shows 164 matches, 13,288 runs, 36 centuries and 210 catches! Not to mention a batting average of 52 for a career over one and a half decade!

For me it’s no mean achievement to have even been considered in the same league as the GOD! We poor mortals!

Cut to June 2018, India plays host to Afghanistan for their inaugural test and who comes to bat at number 3? Voila! It’s a Rahul again! albeit KL Rahul! Forget your respect, emotions and affections for Pujara and you’d definitely feel warm to see a Rahul at that number 3 again. Even Virender Sehwag couldn’t help put his warm feelings across through a tweet for the same! Which read “ek arse bad ek Rahul number 3 par!” (After ages we see a Rahul at number 3 again)

Though an opener by choice, Rahul possesses excellent technique to be the next number 3 given the terrific form he and the Indian openers Vijay and Dhawan are in, in test cricket, also the recent struggles of Pujara in the matches abroad. Many would certainly differ from this opinion of me, but there are two things to look at, first and foremost the form he’s in and second the conditions are apt to put his technique to test, for India plays 5 test matches in England and then Australia.

Pujara can be pushed to 4/5 depending on the situation and then the ever dependent Rahane. Try to look at this batting order:

Vijay, Dhawan, Rahul, Kohli, Pujara/Hardik, Rahane, Saha, Ashwin, Bhuvi, Ishant, Bumrah.

For the records and statistics lovers out there, KL has played 24 test matches scoring 1512 runs at an average of 41 and a strike rate of 57, he’s still finding his feet in ODIs having played just 10 games at different batting positions and  has still managed to score a century, as far the T20Is go, out of the 19 matches he’s played, he’s scored 696 runs at an average of 50 and a mind blowing strike rate of 155 with 2 centuries and 4 fifties! It’s about time he starts making it to all playing XIs for the country because at the moment the ball is more often than not finding the sweet spot of his bat and that loud “Takk” sound of ball meeting the bat is reaching one and all! Ah that sound! If only I had words to describe it!

Nevertheless If we want to be the world beaters in test cricket, especially travelling abroad, we’d need to think and act like one and take a leaf out of the Australian team captained by Ricky ponting, their funda to a layman like me was: the best player in the form would make it to the playing eleven, no emotions no tantrums and no talks, you will get to serve your nation at the peak of your form! No ifs and buts whatsoever! Never lose hope of a positive result and play hard!

It is indeed humongous boots to fill to be the next wall, which is impossible to replicate, but a solid brick in the form of KL is taking shape for sure which does augur well for Indian cricket.

Let’s hope we get to see this Rahul make that coveted number 3 his own for he possesses the technique and has shots to survive at this level and that too with some elan and panache. A bit of temperament and maturity can only seep in with time and more matches, he’s still in his twenties, let’s hope we get to turn the clock back and see something as solid as the number 3 once boasted of for India!

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