India announced their 16-men squad for the two-Test series against New Zealand starting February 21 and it did not feature KL Rahul, India’s newfound wicket-keeper-batsman in the limited-over formats who also ended up being the Man of the Series in the recently-concluded T20I series. Rahul recently regained his long lost form but his failure in making the Test squad disappointed former speedster, Zaheer Khan.
Rahul’s batting position remained a puzzle in the ODI series against Australia at home where he came out in three different positions in as many outings. In the T20Is against New Zealand, Shikhar Dhawan’s absence kept him as the opener in most matches and in the first ODI in Hamilton, Rahul blasted 88 not out in only 64 balls to power India to a big total of 347 in 50 overs. Yet, he failed to earn a berth for the Tests despite Rohit Sharma getting ruled out of the series due to a calf injury.
‘Rahul in place of Rohit’: Zaheer Khan
Speaking to Gautam Bhimani along with ace analyst Harsha Bhogle on CricbuzzLIVE, the 41-year-old said keeping Rahul in the squad when Rohit is absent could have been handy and added that the team management might be thinking at some stage the need of Rahul.
“You want to capitalise on a form like this. You have seen it in the past also that players have been drafted in a particular squad based on their form. Why not KL Rahul? After this innings, even the team management, the selectors must be thinking ‘okay, maybe we have been harsh on him. Maybe, we should have just given him the opportunity in Rohit Sharma’s absence,” he said.
India picked Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal as the main openers for the series. Bhogle said that a player like Rahul could also be handy lower down the order in Tests, as against Zaheer who said such players need to be pushed up, adding that he could also prove to be effective in case Ajinkya Rahane, who plays at No.5, is not playing.
India lost the opening match of the ODI series by four wickets after veteran Ross Taylor slammed 109 not out to help overhaul the target of 348 that India set for the Kiwis.