KL Rahul’s string of poor scores in the ongoing T20 World Cup in Australia has led to severe criticism of the India vice-captain. Several former cricketers, including Wasim Jaffer, have called for his removal from India’s playing XI and voiced their support for Rishabh Pant’s inclusion in the side after Rohit Sharma and company’s defeat to South Africa on Sunday. The latest to join the brigade of KL Rahul’s slammers is the legendary Farokh Engineer. Farokh Engineer is of the view that KL Rahul is looking woefully out of form and he’s not adding any value to the Men in Blue at the moment and hence doesn’t deserve a place in the final XI in the upcoming matches of the T20 World Cup.
Like many other cricket pundits, Farokh Engineer threw his weight behind Rishabh Pant.
According to the former India wicketkeeper, Rishabh Pant could prove to be a good choice as an opener, considering he will provide the team with a left and right combination at the top of the order with captain Rohit Sharma taking the other spot.
“India need to quickly find some solutions after their chastening defeat to South Africa on Sunday. Their first problem is opening batsman KL Rahul who is terribly out of form. The way he was out, it was like he was giving catching practice. He just glided the ball into the first slip. An opening batsman doesn’t do that!” Farokh Engineer wrote in his column for the Khaleej Times.
“I have a very high opinion of KL Rahul as a very, very capable batsman. But in this World Cup, he just hasn’t done anything. So are you going to replace him at this stage? Are you going to get Rishabh Pant to open the innings? I don’t know. I would like to pursue with him still because he is a good batsman, you cannot become a bad batsman overnight,” Farokh Engineer added.
Unlike Farokh Engineer who was scathing in his remarks against KL Rahul, former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming came out in the India opener’s support.
Stephen Fleming said that he would give KL Rahul some more time because he’s a world-class player who was struggling with his rhythm right now. But once he got a big score under his belt he will be a huge threat to any bowling attack in the world.
“I don’t know what unlocks KL Rahul. I remember at IPL seasons where he stuttered this way through and then we copped him once, the team – his franchise side – had been knocked out the tournament and he played one of the most unbelievable innings to get a hundred. You just look at it in just absolute awe, wondering ‘Where has this been?’. Something just has to click on unlock or released to get him going. Maybe it’s that fear of failure just rip into it… the confidence that you’re not going to be dropped for the rest of the tournament,” Stephen Fleming told ESPNCricinfo.
“I’m locking him in. I’m just saying, ‘Mate, you’re in for the run. You’ve proven how good a player you can be. I’m going to give you the confidence to say ‘You’ve got the remainder of the tournament to play. Play however you want, but I’m not dropping you. You’re a key player and I support you. If that can unlock him, then that would be great. It could go a long way in us winning the competition. So that would be my message,” he added.
Former India opener Wasim Jaffer too wasn’t impressed with KL Rahul’s performance against South Africa in Perth and even suggested that it was time the team management thought about bringing Rishabh Pant as an opener.
“Going forward, do we stick with KL Rahul? Is there a change needed in the top-order? Sometimes, you are in a form where you’re unable to score runs and you’re failing continuously, then the pressure piles on you. Maybe Rishabh Pant can open the batting for India. That will be a spot for him, and Axar Patel comes back in for the next game (in place of Hooda). India will have to have a look on this matter. It is to be seen if they stick with KL Rahul, or do they want to change something at the top,” Wasim Jaffer told CricTracker.
“If Deepak Hooda was not going to bowl then Rishabh Pant would’ve been a better choice. He has played in this condition, he has got runs in Australia, and Deepak Hooda has not played in Australia. And if India was not going to use him as a spinner, then it would have made sense to play Rishabh Pant as an extra batter. It surprised me,” Wasim Jaffer noted.