By Nesara Jagannatha
Finishing at the top after the League stage, Team India has done a fantastic job at this World Cup thereby ensuring a realistic possibility of bringing the World Cup home. Barring a loss against England, the team has looked solid in all the departments and it would extremely difficult for the other semifinalists to get past the Men in Blue.
Speaking about the contribution of Karnataka players in this World Cup, 2019 has been better than Stuart Binny’s stint in 2015 and Robin Uthappa’s Caribbean journey in 2007. A major reason for this has been KL Rahul. A few days ago, another Kannadiga, Mayank Agarwal was also drafted into the squad and here is how both these players could prove instrumental going into the remaining games at the World Cup for India.
KL Rahul has been a part of an indefinite arc in this World Cup so far. Having initially been selected as a reserve opener, Rahul cemented the No. 4 position in the squad after his century against Bangladesh in the warm-up encounter. Although Rahul got to play at this position only for one game against South Africa, he was soon made to open the innings after Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of the tournament. He scored a half-century in the high-pressure game against Pakistan albeit at a strike-rate which could have been better. However, KL did make sure Dhawan’s exit did not affect the team balance as he complemented Rohit Sharma very well at the top. With slow starts against West Indies and Afghanistan and the failure against England, KL Rahul was made to come under the scanner. Mayank Agarwal as a replacement for an all-rounder like Vijay Shankar also made KL Rahul’s place in the squad a little doubtful. However, with a good 70 against Bangladesh and a century against Sri Lanka, KL Rahul is back to form and will be a part of the team for its remaining games at the World Cup.
With New Zealand as our next opposition, KL Rahul would be expected to see off the new ball with the likes of Trent Boult, Matt Henry, and Lockie Ferguson coming at him. His role would be crucial as his game could define Rohit and Virat’s performance and thereby the outcome of the match. Depending on whether India is batting first or chasing, KL Rahul must adapt to the situation accordingly and play for the team the way he has been doing since the last month.
Mayank was never in the frame to make it to the World Cup squad a few weeks ago. However, the unfortunate injury to Shikar and the necessity to improve the contribution of the other batsman in the squad has led Mayank to start his ODI career at the World Cup. WIth KL’s century against Sri Lanka, Mayank’s chances of a debut are slim and it is unlikely that the management would experiment with him in the middle-order. However, if a situation does come in which needs Mayank to play, his experience in red-ball cricket as an opener will be of use. Mayank has scored tons of runs in domestic cricket and with his stint Down Under a few months ago, he would be a handy replacement if there is an injury.