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KL Rahul – A Struggling Genius | Analysis

KL Rahul – A Struggling Genius | Analysis

 

How good a fantasy pick is K.L. Rahul?

K.L. Rahul entered the frame of Indian cricket as an enigma when he made a hundred in his debut Test series against Australia. He impressed everyone with his grit, patience and stroke play. Be it a Test, ODI or T20I, he became an obvious fantasy pick, but when it came to India’s tour of Australia, his selection raises a few questions, for ardent cricket fans and fantasy fans alike. We take a look at his journey from the sublime to the corridor of uncertainty.

K.L. Rahul’s Upswing

After he scored an impressive 110 in the SCG (his first as an opener), India thought they had finally found the perfect opening partner for Murali Vijay after losing their patience with Shikhar Dhawan. Rahul backed those claims with hundreds in Sri Lanka and the West Indies in the following tours, and life was perfect, until the leather started finding wooden edges, a little more frequently.

He was in the peak of his form during 2016 in which he scored 539 out of seven Test matches at an average of 59.88 including his career best of 199. He continued his consistent show in the following year scoring 9 fifties in 9 Test matches against Australia and Sri Lanka.

Span Average Balls per dismissal
2016 59.88 96.5
2017 48.69 82.6

Rahul’s Slump

All these games were played in conditions similar to that of Asia (including West Indies) and Rahul made a strong case for himself to be included in the XI on regular basis. But that was followed by a tough year for Indian cricket with overseas tours lined up for them in the SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Australia) countries and K.L. Rahul started to find new ways to interrupt his sublime brilliance. The comfort zone of sub-continental conditions, had created a sense of over-confidence in challenging conditions. Rahul went from playing 80-90 balls per dismissal to a visibly reduced 39 balls per innings.

Span Average Balls per dismissal
2018* 23.44 39.16

Struggles against Right Arm Pace

Rahul has always struggled against right-arm pacers. His dismissal rate against right-arm pace has been in every 54 balls since 2014, while he seems to be prolific against left-arm trio in scoring heavily, and getting out less frequently.

Span Bowling technique Average Balls per dismissal
2014-18 Right-Arm pace 30.46 54.3
2014-18 Left-Arm pace 69.50 130

An interesting way to look at how Rahul has performed vis-à-vis similar openers (in the period after his debut) is that, Rahul plays at least 13 balls lesser from a right-arm pacer, while Rahul still is miles ahead of similar counterparts across the world when it comes to scoring off left-arm pacers.

Span Bowling technique Average Balls per dismissal
2014-18 Right-Arm pace 31.22 67
2014-18 Left-Arm pace 31.23 69.5

 

The numbers clearly show that KL Rahul is much better against left-arm pacers than he is while facing the right-arm pacers. Even at his recent peak, he struggled against the right-arm pacers of Sri Lanka both home and away, which substantiates the story of his struggles against right arm pacers.

Span Bowling technique Team Balls per dismissal
2015 Right-arm pace Sri Lanka 26.4
2017 Right-arm pace Sri Lanka 34.6

Weakness leading to a lean patch:

 Adding more to the previous argument, Rahul’s struggles against the right arm bowlers, continued in the tougher surfaces which aid lateral movement, where he had a similar dismissal rate in South Africa and England.

*His one brilliant innings at the Oval, has made a difference to his balls per dismissal, masking the struggle he seems to have developed. In the year 2018, 70% of his dismissals have fallen to right arm pacers, and 30% of those dismissals have come in the arc between the keeper and gully.

Span Bowling technique Team Balls per dismissal
2018 Right arm pace South Africa 25.2
2018 Right arm pace England 47* (23.8)

Delving Deeper- Rahul’s False Shot Percentage

 Rahul doesn’t move his feet too much and has been playing away from the body. His tendency of chasing wide deliveries without reaching the ball has led to his downfall in South Africa and England. Sehwag is another batsman who didn’t use his feet abundantly against pacers but his hand-eye co-ordination still allowed him to dominate them, an attribute that lacks in the prowess of K.L. Rahul.

He was again dismissed by a right-arm pacer, Josh Hazelwood while playing a false cover drive to a full-length ball away from the body which he could only manage to nick to the second slip.

Based on his weakness, form in 2018 and his indifferent record in SENA countries, Rahul can be a dicey fantasy pick for any team. Rahul’s blitzkrieg at the Oval showed us that he is always one innings away from a big streak of low score, and while that augurs well for us judging his class, it doesn’t help us have an opinion on him performing, when it comes to fantasy cricket. If I were you, I would probably keep away from ‘talent’ that’s waiting to perform. I would pick him as a differentiator when less than 10% of the audience picks him, hoping that a magical innings can tip the fantasy scorecard in my name. That makes him a dicey pick, doesn’t it?

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