Under-fire India opener K. L. Rahul has had his and skipper Rohit Sharma’s unstinted support in “words and action” over the past one year and it will continue for the remainder of T20 World Cup, head coach Rahul Dravid said on Tuesday.
Rahul has scored only 22 runs in three games but the coach said that there is no chance of replacing him at the top of the order. India play Bangladesh on Wednesday.
“In words and in action over last one year, Rohit and I have shown that we fully back K. L.,” head coach Dravid told the media on a day when most questions were reserved on Rahul’s form.
No concerns over Rahul’s form: Dravid
The head coach did all the firefighting for one of his favourite players and someone he sees as a future India captain.
“Not at all,” Dravid said when asked if there are concerns about Rahul’s form.
“I think he is a fantastic player. He has got a proven track record. He has done really well. He has been batting superbly and these things can happen in a T20 game sometimes,” the coach was lavish in his praise for Indian vice-captain.
“It has not been that easy for top-order batsmen (in this tournament). He was superb in the practice game against Australia. With Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, it was a pretty good attack and I thought he batted superbly that day…” Dravid then made it clear that there is no chance that the Bangalore man would be dropped at least in this tournament and is hoping that he will come good in the next four games. If India play four games, effectively they will be playing the final.
“I am hoping it all clicks together in the next three or four g ames. We know his quality, we know his ability, he is suited for these conditions, these pitches. “
‘Not difficult to back him’
The head coach didn’t forget to mention the qualities that make Rahul a tailor-made player for Australian conditions.
“He has got a good all-round game, he has got a strong backfoot game which is very much required in these conditions,” he said.
So when someone is under such scanner, does it become difficult to back such a player? ‘The Wall’s’ reply was an emphatic one and laced with sarcasm.
“It’s not difficult at all (to back Rahul). Because, we don’t pay attention to what people are talking outside. We have certain ideas in mind, certain belief in players.
“We played the game enough to know that people will go through ups and downs. We also understand the nature of Indian cricket,” Dravid said.
He gave the example of how media was after Virat Kohli till he found form and now it’s Rahul, whose form is under microscope.
“Once you have gone past Kohli and Kohli has got runs, who is the next guy? Then if Rahul scores runs, look around, who is the next guy. That’s part of the job, I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner but that’s the nature of professional sport.”
For Dravid, the team doesn’t get “swayed” by public perception.
“Especially in this T20 format, which is such a high-risk format, you are asking people to play high-risk brand of cricket and asking them to play a positive brand of cricket. We have always had that belief that we need to give them that confidence and backing.”
But Dravid was counter-questioned that if he is talking about high-risk approach then the shots that Rahul played en route his respective dismissals against Pakistan and South Africa, were anything but high-risk.
From 2021, Rahul’s strike-rate against top team has been less than 120 and an average of less than 20 does paint a sorry picture.
But Dravid feels that his senior opener should be cut some slack in these challenging conditions.
“In these conditions, maybe we are able to afford him (Rahul) that time. We (he and Rohit) completely back him. We have no concerns about him. We know when he gets going I know the impact this guy can make. And I have seen it against a top-class attack (Australia) just a couple of weeks ago.
“In Rohit and my mind there is absolutely no doubt that who is going to open for us,” Dravid literally ended the ‘Rahul Debate’ with a parting shot.