Rahul is at the peak of his abilities in all formats.
After Virat Kohli’s bombshell Test captaincy resignation, shortly after a disheartening 2-1 series loss against South Africa, KL Rahul is in the mix as the possible successor to Kohli. The former skipper leaves behind gigantic boots to fill, having taken the Indian Test team from being mere participants overseas to becoming a strong force in all conditions.
Although Ajinkya Rahane has won plaudits for his leadership in the past, most notably during India’s tour of Australia in 2020/21, his future in the Test team is rather uncertain. Rohit Sharma was all set to be Kohli’s deputy during India’s tour of South Africa, but an injury meant it was KL Rahul who was given the honour.
As a result of Kohli’s announcement, one would assume KL Rahul would be high up in the pecking order for Test captaincy. Having led India in the Wanderers Test for the first time, Rahul ticked several boxes that indicated he could be the man for the future. Here are 3 reasons why KL Rahul should be India’s next Test captain.
#3 KL Rahul is in peak form in Test cricket
Rahul has been one of India’s best openers in overseas conditions over the years.
Having spent some time outside the team due to poor form, Rahul made a stunning comeback to red-ball cricket during India’s tour of England in 2021. In conditions that are notoriously treacherous for opening batters, Rahul showed discipline and application en route two big innings of 84 and 129 in the first two Tests of the tour.
Although he missed the home series against New Zealand due to injury, he made amends by racking up a patient, match-winning hundred against South Africa at Centurion. He followed it up with a measured fifty in the Wanderers Test match, and ended the tour as India’s highest scorer.
For a captain to command the support of his team and the respect of the cricketing world, he must be the first name on the team sheet and a sure starter in all conditions. Few players in India’s current batting line-up fit that bill and Rahul is surely there on current form.
#2 KL Rahul has a long future in Test cricket
Unlike fellow contender Rohit Sharma, Rahul has a lot of time left in his playing career.
At 29 years of age, Rahul is entering the best years for an international cricketer, with room to improve on his already well-honed skills. Age is an important factor, since building a team for the future takes time and stability, thus India’s next captain needs to be someone who can foreseeably lead the team for several years going forward.
Although India appears to have a glut of reliable opening options in Tests at the moment, Rahul’s ability to switch between watchful and attacking in highly difficult conditions make him a mainstay in India’s team for years to come. In just the past few years, Rahul has made tremendous strides as an all-format cricketer, and his Test performances of 2021 give a glimpse of growth in his defensive game too.
With the likes of 35-year-old Rohit Sharma unlikely to play the longest format for many more years, owing to persistent fitness issues, it is important the team looks at Rahul as the name to take Indian cricket forward, as they have done in the shorter formats of the game.
#1 KL Rahul is likely to play every single game
India needs to monitor Jasprit Bumrah’s workload in the longest format
With Rishabh Pant establishing himself as India’s long-term Test wicketkeeper, KL Rahul’s role is limited to that of an opening batter. While dangerous pitches and menacing new-ball bowlers can still cause injuries to opening batters, Rahul is quite likely to be protected from the sort of fatigue that an all-rounder or wicket-keeper might be subjected to.
With Jasprit Bumrah named as Rahul’s deputy for the Wanderers Test, one could wonder if the pacer’s name could get the nod too. However, the sheer workload that Bumrah has in overseas Tests alone is a major deterrent to naming him as the skipper. Bumrah does not play home Tests due to workload management, and India cannot risk giving the captaincy to someone who misses half the games the country competes in.
Thus, although Rahul lost the one Test he led India in, he appears to be India’s best choice within the current pool to succeed the illustrious Kohli.