K.L. Rahul, Hardik Pandya set for maiden World Cup

Leaving behind the TV show controversy that threatened their careers, Rahul and Pandya cashed in on their IPL form to make it to ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

K.L. Rahul raises his bat after registering a ton against Mumbai Indians in IPL 2019.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

 

K.L. Rahul had earned his maiden international cap through Test cricket in 2014. But the batsman was also inclined to play in limited-overs games. The moment he sensed a ‘Test specialist’ tag, he smashed a hundred on his ODI debut [against Zimbabwe] in 2016. It was followed by a 33 and a 63 not out.

Rahul scored his maiden T20I ton two months later against the West Indies in the Caribbean. He already had three hundreds in the first six Tests he played.

He is only the third Indian batsman to score a century in all the three formats of international cricket.

These are some of the factors that rightly justifies Rahul’s inclusion and underlines the fact that he is a game-changer. He has the ability to score a quick fifty as well as hold the innings.

Though he has excelled as an opener, he wouldn’t mind walking in at No 3 if skipper Virat Kohli decides to go one step down to put an end to the No 4 confusion.

READ| Dinesh Karthik in World Cup squad after 12 years

Rahul is also a part-time wicketkeeper, which gives Team India a third option for a stumper after M.S. Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik.

The IPL has been kind to Rahul. He has been scoring heavily in the league ever since he joined Kings XI Punjab.

Rahul scored his maiden IPL ton [100 not out] last week against Mumbai Indians. As of April 15, he is the second-highest scorer in the tournament with 335 runs [three fifties and a hundred], second only to David Warner.

In 2018, he had finished the IPL with 659 runs.

On top of that, Rahul hit two hundreds in England last summer — an unbeaten 101 in the T20I in Manchester and the 149 at the Oval in London. He has cleared the temperament test and needs to back his form.

The Pandya factor

All-rounder Hardik Pandya has been delivering the goods for Mumbai Indians in the IPL. After being out of action for nearly four months due to a back injury, Pandya made a comeback in the ODI series against New Zealand in January. He appeared in three ODIs and as many T20Is.

Lower back stiffness ruled him out of the home series against Australia but he has been making heads turn in IPL 2019.

ALSO READ| Team India for World Cup 2019: Karthik, Jadeja, Shankar in squad, Pant misses out

Pandya’s short bursts in the death overs is proving effective — 32 not out in 14 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore, 31 in 19 balls against Kings XI Punjab, 25 not out in 8 balls against Chennai Super Kings and a 28 not out in 11 balls against Rajasthan Royals.

Hardik Pandya in action in IPL 2019.   -  AFP

 

Having a prior experience of English conditions, it won’t be too challenging for Pandya – the bowler.

Earlier in 2019, Pandya and Rahul had run into trouble for their loose talk on women in the celebrity TV show ‘Koffee With Karan’. Pandya and Rahul were provisionally suspended by the Committee of Administrators.

The ban was lifted and on April 1, BCCI Ombudsman Justice DK Jain issued them notices to appear for deposition.

The World Cup call-up will be a massive boost to the duo, erasing all worries.

Chairman of the selection committee, M.S.K. Prasad, said the panel did not select new faces even though they have done well in the IPL. The idea was to maintain the core side that played against Australia [home and away] this year.

Through the IPL form, Pandya and Rahul — regulars in the side — could perhaps reassure the selectors that they did not slip in rough waters.