Euro 2020 Special
 

KL Rahul earns surprise recall for Zimbabwe tour: He is back as captain as well

Introduction

In a surprise move, KL Rahul has been added to the India squad for their forthcoming short tour of Zimbabwe where they will play three ODIs. Not originally part of the 15-man squad that was named, Rahul will also skipper the side, deposing Shikhar Dhawan who has to make do with being vice-captain.

However, with the T20I World Cup in mind, the Indian selectors have decided that there is no room for sentiment and want the batter to gain as much match practice as possible over the coming weeks.

Injury and sickness

Rahul has not played any competitive cricket since helping guide the Lucknow Super Giants to the play-offs in the Indian T20 league in May. He was scheduled to be part of the tour party to England to play in the Fifth Test at Edgbaston – held over from last year following an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Indian camp – but had to withdraw with a groin sprain.

This was later diagnosed as a sports hernia injury, requiring a small operation in Germany in June to resolve the problem.

No sooner had he recovered from that, but misfortune struck again. Selected for India’s white ball tour of the West Indies, he contracted COVID-19 a week before his scheduled departure. 

Recovery

Rahul’s return to cricket has been managed by the BCCI medical team and included a two-week post COVID-19 recovery time. Since then, he has been subject to a series of examinations, including a mandatory cardiovascular test and he has now been cleared fit to play.

He has resumed training full-time and batting in the nets and has been subject to regular medical assessments. However, that is no replacement for spending time in the middle and he will be keen to prove his fitness ahead of the Asia Cup, starting later this month.

He has already been named in that team, with the Indian selectors already having indicated that the same squad is likely to represent them in the World Cup.

His second stint as captain

This will be the second time that Rahul has captained the Indian ODI side and he will be hoping for better luck than in his first experience in the job. He took charge of the side in their three match series in South Africa earlier this year, but they lost all three matches on the road.

Rahul’s ODI career

Rahul has so far played only 42 ODIs since he first made his debut for India in the format against Zimbabwe in 2016. To date, he has scored 1,634 runs at an average of 46.69 and has five centuries and a further ten fifties to his name.

His career has not been without controversy, though. In January 2019, both he and Hardik Pandya were suspended by the BCCI after they appeared on a TV chat show and made comments that were widely criticised as being sexist. Both were dropped from an ODI series against Australia and a forthcoming tour of New Zealand.

Rahul has described the incident as a “wake-up” call for him to take his profession more seriously.

 

Dhawan can feel hard done by

Shikhar Dhawan can feel hard done by in losing the job as captain. He has just successfully led the ODI team to a whitewash over the West Indies in the Caribbean and similarly led a second string Indian team to an ODI series win in Sri Lanka last year.

However, he is not part of India’s World Cup plans so has had to make way.

The Zimbabwe tour

India and Zimbabwe will play three ODIs, all of which are being staged at the Harare Sports Club in the country’s capital. The first will take place on Thursday, August 18th, with the second two days later and the final match two days after that.

There will then be a very short turnaround before the start of the Asia Cup on Dubai on 27th August. India play their first match in that competition – which this year will be a T20I tournament – against Pakistan the following day.

India will, of course, start heavy favourites for the Zimbabwe, but the home side should not be underestimated completely because they have just completed an ODI series win over Bangladesh.

And, whilst India qualify for next year’s World Cup automatically as hosts, the series is very important for the home nation. It forms part of the ICC World Cup Super League and finishing in the top eight in that means direct qualification for the World Cup, sparing them the rigours – and uncertainty – of a qualifying competition.

 

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