India loses series but gains KL Rahul, a long-term fix at No. 5.

KL Rahul

The ball flew to the boundary, and all it took was a roll of the wrists by KL Rahul.

Martin Guptill is a master of making batting look absurdly simple. On occasion, he doesn’t even look up after hitting his shot.

There really is nothing cooler than opening the batting in modern-day limited-overs cricket. You have pace on the ball. There are only two fielders on the boundary when you start your innings. And, you don’t really face that much movement, either in the air or off the pitch.

It seems – actually, it is – opportunistic but Guptill, who got to a fifty with a strike rate of 172 facing only India’s quicks, fell to his ninth delivery of spin. Yuzvendra Chahal bowled him with a legbreak that had been bewitched.

But the fact remains that once pace is taken off, the game changes. The ball doesn’t ping off the bat. Worse, it starts to grip and move sideways.

So imagine being a specialist opener. Imagine having all the shots. The scoops. The ramps. The inside-out drive. The reverse sweep. And then being told the only way you can get in the XI is by remaking yourself into a middle-order batsman.

In other words, to meet the changes you’ll face – no pace on the ball and limited opportunities for quick runs – and overcome them to score big and score freely, you have to be as good as, oh I dunno, AB de Villiers.

KL Rahul is definitely not there yet. It is hard to imagine anyone can get there, actually. But it should present a measure of how hard he has to work. At least, the early signs are positive. The 27-year-old made his first century in this new role in a match where the top three contributed less than 20% of their total (296).

There was a calmness to his entire knock. It began in the 13th over and continued all the way through to the 47th and never once did he look in danger of stagnating. Part of that is because of pure ability. Rahul is one of the few Indian batsmen who has a 360-degree game. Look through his knock in Mount Maunganui. You’ll see that he gets off the mark with a punch through point every bit as classy as Kane Williamson’s. Then a crisp on-drive reminiscent of Virat Kohli. A sweep shot that contained no premeditation. A fully upright scoop for six against the 6’8″ Kyle Jamieson, who had no trouble hitting the splice of the other batsmen.

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