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Will KL Rahul be the new regular number three in T20Is for India?

The 26-year old has been one of the most important Indian batsmen in recent times.

KL Rahul of India
KL Rahul of India celebrates reaching his century. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

KL Rahul was the new batsman in the crucial number three position for India in batting. And well he replied with a fantastic unbeaten century in the first T20I against England on July 3. Ahead of the 2nd game of the three-match series, Rahul holds the key once again as India look to go for the kill and get hold of the trophy.

Many would have thought Suresh Raina was the first choice in this position after helming the same since the start of 2018. But now it’s the Bangalore cricketer that has suddenly become the focus. And it looks like that the management would test his caliber in this crucial position for quite some time to come. So why the change from Virat Kohli to Raina and now to KL Rahul? Is Kohli now the new number 4 on a regular basis? Or will India chip and change as per the demands of the game?

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There are plenty of questions that arise here. Although, the management must be in a place of comfort knowing that the options and depth the team has at the moment will serve them well going forward. KL Rahul played a gem of an innings at Old Trafford on Tuesday and the Indian team knows that the best place for him is to come at the top.

With Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma the primary choices as openers, Rahul will not be getting a slot there. Therefore the solution is to give him maximum time and what better than the number three position? That in turn now means that Kohli will follow suit with Raina and MS Dhoni coming next as per the situation. Also, there is Manish Pandey with India playing Hardik Pandya as their 5th bowler.

Kohli gets a new position

The Indian cricket team skipper was the side’s main man in this position after donning the role for the last couple of years, The 29-year-old, who became the fastest to 2000 runs recently in T20Is, has scored chunks of his runs batting in at number three. Perhaps he should have continued batting there, but he gave the T20I series against South Africa a miss earlier this year and that opened up the position.

Another reason for Kohli to give up a position he enjoyed batting majorly is to allow the likes of Raina and Rahul to make an impact to score runs quickly. Therefore taking the onus now at the center of the middle-order gives Kohli the chance to come in and play with more responsibility. He got an unbeaten 20 against England and chipped in with a valuable partnership alongside Rahul.Out of 56 T20Is, Kohli has played 40 games coming in at number three.

During this time he scored 1617 runs which included 16 fifties at an average of 57.75. He has an impressive strike-rate of 135.77. While batting at number 4, he has 171 runs in 7 innings at an average of 34.20.The statistics show the difference and it will be interesting to see whether we will now get familiar with Kohli coming more at number 4.

What about Raina?

The southpaw made a return to the Indian T20I side in the series against South Africa and straightaway the management tried him at number three in absence of Kohli. The results that followed gave India a cushion. Raina had more time to lay the foundation and he scored valuable runs at a decent strike-rate.

The senior player also continued in that position in the Nidahas Trophy in March and played all of India’s games. Raina’s flair and touch gave everybody an indication that perhaps he could lead the position for quite some time to come despite Kohli coming back later on. Against Ireland that was proved as Raina continued batting in his new position and struck 79 runs in two innings.

So he was the genuine choice against England, but the management surprised everyone as Raina was supposed to come at number 5 then his new found position. Raina has batted in 3, 4, 5 and 6 positions in T20Is. In 65 matches, he has batted in number three a total of 26 times. He averages 32.96 and has hit a ton earlier and has amassed 791 runs.

At number 5, he doesn’t have a good record. He has 148 runs in 10 games. If the management decides on sticking in with Rahul, then one would see Raina coming in at number 5 or 6 despite him not being able to enjoy much freedom.

Rahul the new number three

Rahul has been brilliant with the bat since the Indian Premier League 2018, where he amassed runs aplenty. The stylish player was finally given the chance to come in and open against Ireland in a new look combination in the 2nd game. He did not disappoint. He hit a whirlwind 70 and that gave the team enough trust to try him ahead of Raina and Kohli.

Rahul is a natural top order batsman and is currently in the best form of his life. Therefore wasting him down the order wasn’t something the management was keen on. His 101* against England was another prime example. This was just his 2nd game in this position. As an opener, Rahul has played 11 matches with 418 runs under his belt.

Over time despite being in the squad, he often was limited to the bench as India had a settled line-up. But not overlooking him anymore, the team management has finally decided to make some positional changes and see what lies ahead.
Rahul has grabbed his chance and it may take a while for Raina or Kohli to feature in their normal positions.

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