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‘If an in-form player sits out, it’s not a problem because…’: Kaif’s unexpected take on Ishan vs Rahul conundrum

Choosing between KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan as the No.5 batter and wicketkeeper could be India’s biggest selection headache

With India’s stars making their way back after long absences due to injuries, some of the players who filled their shoes in the intervening ODI matches have had to make way. While Jasprit Bumrah’s return is undisputed and Shreyas Iyer is widely accepted as the player who deserves to be India’s first-choice No.4, KL Rahul’s direct return to the No.5 spot and as the first-choice wicketkeeper has come under scrutiny.

If Rahul is included in the squad, it would’ve have to be in place of Ishan Kishan, who has put up extraordinarily consistence performances in the format over the past two years. While most of his performances came as an opener, Kishan showed his calibre as a middle-order player by bailing India out alongwith Hardik Pandya in their washed out Asia Cup 2023 against Pakistan. Kishan had scored 82 off 81 balls, which was his fourth consecutive half century in ODIs.

However, the fact remains that Rahul has a great record in the position as well. Former India batter Mohammed Kaif said that head coach Rahul Dravid could feel comfortable keeping the experienced Rahul in the position going into the World Cup despite Kishan’s performances.

“Rahul Dravid will know that both (Rahul and Iyer) are the backbone of the Indian middle order and that they will need game time. Ishan played really well, and that’s good because there’s healthy competition in the team,” said Kaif on Star Sports.

“However, if an in-form player sits out, then it’s not a problem because Dravid will want to see Rahul bat at No.5. He has good numbers at No. 5, and you will want him and Iyer to get game time and have that form when they play the first World Cup game against Australia.”

Rahul’s numbers

The match against Pakistan was the first time that Kishan had played in the No.5 spot. In the 19 ODIs he has played thus far, Kishan has scored 776 runs at an average of 48.50 including seven half-centuries and one century, which famously was the fastest double century in the history of ODI cricket.

Rahul, on the other hand, has scored 1986 in 54 ODIs at an average of 45.13 with 13 half centuries and five centuries. Moreover, Rahul has scored 742 runs in the 18 matches that he has played in the No.5 spot. It has come at an average of 53.00 with seven half centuries and one century.

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