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Another Virat Kohli in the making: Is Lokesh Rahul the next big thing in Indian batting?

India Today logo India Today 03-09-2016
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Kananur Lokesh Rahul, or else known as KL or Lokesh Rahul is quickly emerging as one of the most talented batsman in the current Indian batting line up which comprises of the likes of Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma among others.

Rahul's class and consistency have almost been at par with his Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate and captain Kohli in all the three formats this year. Being a reserve batsman in the team is always a difficult job to undertake but Rahul has been tremendous whenever he has got the opportunity to shine.

Many would have crumbled under the pressure of performing specially after being asked to warm the bench for the better part of a series or a full-fledged overseas tour. But through sheer hard work and hunger to perform, Rahul has become not only one the best batsman in the side but also one of the most consistent as well in all the three formats.

The 24-year-old has been in red-hot form in the limited-overs format this year and has carried that over to Test cricket as well. In the 2016 Indian Premier League, he scored 397 runs in 14 matches at an average of 44.11 with four half-centuries and was the third highest-scorer for Royal Challengers Bangalore behind Kohli (973) and AB de Villiers (687).

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Kohli has showed a lot of faith in Rahul in the IPL and it has worked wonders for the Karnataka batsman in international cricket this year. Rahul was the highest-scorer during India's tour to Zimbabwe last month, where he made 196 runs in 3 ODIs and became the first Indian cricketer to score a century on debut in ODIs. His performance in the T20Is was also substantial as he socred 69 runs from the final two games after getting out on a first-ball duck in the opening match. He was adjudged Player of the Series for his ODI exploits on that tour.

He is also quickly establishing himself as a world-class opener in Tests and has made the most of the limited opportunities that he has got so far.

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After a disastrous Test debut in Melbourne in 2014, Rahul made amends by scoring his maiden hundred in the fourth Test against Australia in Sydney last year and followed it up with a match-winning hundred in the second Test at Colombo against Sri Lanka later that year. On both occasions he had replaced regular openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan in the playing XI, who were either ruled out due to injuries or lost their place due to bad form.

In the recent tour of the West Indies last month, Rahul was included in the side after the first Test as Murali Vijay got injured. The opener then amassed 236 runs in 3 matches at an average of 78.66 with one hundred and a half-century. Rahul finished as the third-highest run-scorer in the series behind Rahane (243) and Kohli (251), who both played four games.

In the following two T20 Internationals, Rahul smashed an unbeaten 110 in the first match at Florida and became the third Indian after Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma to score a century in all three formats of the game, a record which even run-machine Kohli hasn't managed to achieve till now. India still ended up on the losing side as the Windies clinched the game by one run and the series the next day after the second match got washed out.

Rahul is averaging 37.84 in 8 Test matches so far with three hundreds and one half-century, while his exploits in ODIs and T20Is is quickly becoming a regular feature. Sadly though, he is yet to cement a permanent place in the Indian side in all three formats despite performing consistently, especially in Tests, over the past couple of seasons.

Rahul certainly has shown that he has the potential to become the next big thing in Indian batting, but he needs more support from his captain and a secured place in the side. Only then can he rise to the top.

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