Several months of persisting with Rishabh Pant as a replacement of the great MS Dhoni and then a couple of games for KL Rahul as a keeper in Pant’s absence and suddenly the world is wondering, isn’t Rahul a better, more reliable option than the young dasher? Any debate should begin with statistics. So let’s have a look how the two have fared so far. Rishabh Pant vs KL Rahul, who is better?
Since it’s unfair to compare averages (KL is a top order batsman, Pant is a finisher, perhaps). So let’s have a look at their strike rates, something that should be Pant’s territory considering he is expected to play the role of a finisher. He is in the team because it’s told he can be a game changer!
KL Rahul’s T20I strike rate is 146.39. He has scored 1237 runs which includes 51 sixes. And Rishabh Pant, Indian team’s designated finisher has scored 410 runs at a strike rate of 121. He has smashed 18 sixes. That’s less than a six in a match. So are you still convinced Rishabh Pant is doing justice to his role? Quite evidently, KL Rahul has already proved he is a better smasher of the cricket ball than Rishabh Pant.
But can cricket be all about stats? Nope. If that would have been the case Waseem Jaffer would have been India’s first choice test opener with a first class average of 51 and almost 20,000 runs. There are a lot of calculations that go into selecting a player for the national team. And sometimes it can be as simple as how sweetly the ball meets his bat! We are yet to hear that orgasmic music from his bat. In fact, it appears he is mistiming every ball he plays. He finds fielders more than he finds gaps.
One may argue that Rishabh Pant has two hundreds in Australia and England. But hasn’t he already got numerous opportunities to cement his place in the limited overs format? And couldn’t his test form be an indication that the hard-hitting we are expecting from him has actually gone into his head? In test matches, he doesn’t have the burden of proving his reputation. And perhaps that’s what works for him in the longest format. But if he has to go a mile in that jersey, he must find a way to perform under pressure. The man, he is expected to replace ate pressure for breakfast!
And let’s have a look at KL Rahul. He is exact opposite in the sense, he has performed in the longer format as well as the shortest. He has scored runs opening for the team and while batting down the order. No conditions, no pressure ever seems to affect his gameplay. In fact, while batting in the middle order against Australia he scored a stylish 82 in just 52 balls! You just put him anywhere and he will flourish. And that is the kind of attitude you need to stake a claim in the Indian 11. It’s just too competitive.
At 22 years of age, Rishabh Pant has got plenty of time to step up his game but with the T20 world cup approaching, it makes more sense to invest in somebody who is already showing positive signs. KL Rahul has done enough to guarantee himself a place in the Indian side. You just can’t drop him. And if that is the case, it’s hard to miss he is a keeper too.
And in the limited opportunities he has got to keep for India, he hasn’t done anything that would mark him a rusty or newbie keeper. KL may not have intended it. But it seems likely he is poised to replace Rishabh Pant in the Indian team for good. Another Rahul is set to take up the keeping gloves for the sake of the team after so many years.