India vs Windies | Takeaways: Rahul’s problems against induckers and Prithvi Shaw’s leg-side lesson

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India vs Windies | Takeaways: Rahul’s problems against induckers and Prithvi Shaw’s leg-side lesson

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Bastab K Parida

10/04/2018

A Prithvi Shaw masterclass coupled with Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara’s half-centuries made sure that Windies had a terrible start to their tour. And in the process, KL Rahul lost a glorious opportunity to stake his claim as his problems against inswingers dragged on for one more Test.

Rahul’s struggle against inswinging deliveries continues

KL Rahul is a fine batsman and has the knack of playing big innings. When he is on full flow, he will provide flashes of genius that makes people compare him to many greats of the yesteryear, and especially the other illustrious Rahul from Karnataka. However, cricket has not always been kind to Rahul, or conversely, he hasn’t been kind to the amount of talent that he possesses either. Some problems in his batting have been taking far too long to be solved and the recent struggles against inswinging deliveries don’t help the cause either. 

The fact that Shannon Gabriel’s pace draws someone in instantly and although he is not someone who troubles with movement, one needs to be careful against him. But today, Rahul wasn’t. The 143.5kph delivery swung late and trapped him plumb in front. It was an innocuous delivery and a bit of backward movement could have helped him easily flick that through mid-wicket. But, that is where his lack of confidence and issues in negative forward press coming in. He has now been out either by LBW or bowled in his last eight Test innings and mostly, because of his reluctance to work the ball fine. 

For a fast bowler, the toughest thing while bowling to Rahul is the right length as his lanky stature makes it easy for him to go on the front foot quickly and, consequently, his back-foot play becomes minimal. However, he is comfortable opening the face of the bat to get singles, and so Gabriel focused on luring him into a drive. And when he eventually got one to move in, the batsman had already been out of his position and was caught plumb. This is a very negative intuition and something that nobody expects from the batsman of the caliber of Rahul.

If on the pads, you are going to be punished by Shaw

“Man, how good is he!” - exclaimed my colleague after Prithvi Shaw pulled out a shot from the top drawer against a Kemo Paul full-length delivery and the ball raced to the mid-wicket boundary for a four. It was a special shot and one that belies his cherubic 18-year-old face to produce a finely-crafted century for the country on debut. 

The wicket was as hard as granite and flat as linoleum and there was an obvious trust-deficit for the bowlers with regards to bounce and lateral movement. In that situation, it becomes important for the batsmen to remain positive and not get carried away by the short balls. And Shaw did the same and played with an uncluttered mind, which resulted in making decisive judgments with one being the positioning of his back-leg - a trait that has been often ignored in the cricket while discussing technique. 

His position of the body was perfectly aligned on the back side and his Yuvrajesque high backlift helped him flick with absolute ease against Gabriel and co which eventually helped him score almost 40% of his runs on the leg-side. With the head on top of off stump and the front leg on leg stump, there's a likelihood of staying too far away from deliveries outside off. But that trick came with the perk of scoring runs on the onside, which Shaw used it to the fullest. His cuts were beautiful too, unlike his weight transfer drives, but his glances and flicks stole the show. But, the irony was a cut forced my colleague to exclaim again - “Finally, India has a good back-foot player after Rahul Dravid.”

Oh, yeah. Who would disagree with that? But, I don't miss VVS Laxman anymore.

Windies’ Shannon Gabriel dependency 

Shannon Gabriel has raw pace and to be very precise, he is the third fastest bowler in the world, as per Cricviz data analysis, after Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. However, one might question what is the use of the pace when you average 29.57 despite, more often than not, playing against lower-ranked teams? Yes, that is true and the record is not skewed in his favour. But, that undermines the fact that the Trinidadian thrills like the past Caribbean bowlers of the yore and in the form of him, Windies have a pace spearhead who can put the fear of God in batsmen. 

Today, in the absence of Jason Holder and Kemar Roach, he had a far bigger role to play. He was leading the pack alone with debutant Sherman Lewis and Keemo Paul. With the pitch and the Rajkot air not offering swing in a great deal, he had to resort back to the trick of finding seam movement off the pitch, which at times eluded him as well. 

However, unlike his partners, he kept at it and didn’t lose patience over that. Since Pujara used his feet to come down the pitch very often and forced the bowlers to drag it shorter to unleash his full range of strokes off the back foot, Gabriel made sure that he bowled the balls on good lengths. Given his pace was prevalent, the batsmen didn’t find runs easy to come by against him. Like a microsome of his career, he wasn’t able to pick up as many wickets as he should have, but he applied pressure nonetheless. 

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