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regular-article-logo Monday, 20 May 2024

The KL Rahul riddle: 90 per cent fit to unfit in 8 days, ruled out of 4th England Test

The top-order batter complained of 'a right quadriceps pain' and was subsequently forced to sit out following the opening Test of the series in Hyderabad

Our Special Correspondent Calcutta Published 22.02.24, 06:50 AM
KL Rahul (right)

KL Rahul (right) PTI

The suspense over KL Rahul’s fitness is throwing up several intriguing questions every day. While his attaining 100-per-cent fit status for the Ranchi and Dharamsala Tests in the ongoing series versus England was believed to be a matter of time, it came as a huge surprise when the Board announced that Rahul was ruled out of the fourth match and is doubtful for Dharamsala.

The top-order batter complained of “a right quadriceps pain” and was subsequently forced to sit out following the opening Test of the series in Hyderabad.

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He subsequently began his recovery process at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. On February 12, three days before the start of the third Test in Rajkot, the Board informed that Rahul had “reached 90 per cent of match fitness” and was “progressing well under the supervision of the BCCI medical team”.

The Board said on Tuesday (February 20) even­ing that Rahul had been “ruled out of the fourth Test” in Ranchi. “His participation in the final Test match in Dharamsala is subject to fitness,” the media release stated.

Rahul didn’t accompany the players on the charte­red flight from Rajkot. It was assumed that he would join the side in Ranchi since he was supposed to be fit. The late-evening release from
the Board, however, cleared
all doubts.

The obvious question which crops up is how can a “90 per cent” fit cricketer suddenly be deemed unfit? Has he aggravated the pain in his right quadriceps or suffered a fresh injury?

None from the BCCI could throw any light on the status of Rahul’s injury though
captain Rohit Sharma had said that Rahul “should be okay” following their record win in Rajkot.

Rahul’s return to the international fold in the Asia Cup last September had been a long-drawn process; he had surgery on his right thigh after getting injured in IPL 2023 and spent months at the NCA undergoing rehabilitation.

The Board hasn’t thrown any light on the timeframe of his comeback. “The recovery process depends on the scale of the injury... whether it’s Grade 1, 2 or 3. Sometimes it might seem okay but when you put them through certain tests, the player may not hold up,” Ashish Kaushik, the former head physio of the NCA, told The Telegraph.

There is talk that Rahul is not confident of making a return which has led to the delay. If things don’t improve, he might be forced to consult specialists overseas.

Rahul had been in excellent touch across formats before this latest setback. He sco­red a century in the Test series in South Africa and followed it up with scores of 86 and 22
in Hyderabad.

Given the circumstances, it is unlikely that Rahul will make himself available for the final Test. However, there is an eight-day gap between the end of the fourth Test (February 27) and the start of the fifth match (March 7). It remains to be seen if Rahul regains fitness in the process.

Rahul’s unavailability in Ranchi will provide a ray of hope for Rajat Patidar at the No.4 position. He hasn’t been among runs; scores of 32, 9, 5 and 0 have hardly done justice to the promise he showed before making his debut.

It will provide Patidar another opportunity to redeem his place in the XI and he will be keen to make the most of it. Both Rahul and Virat Kohli’s absence has provided the youngsters with chances to prove themselves.

The likes of Yashasvi Jais­wal and Sarfaraz Khan have been in superb form and were largely instrumental in India’s stupendous performance in Rajkot.

Jaiswal’s back-to-back double centuries in the two Tests has seen him move up 14 spots to 15th position in the ICC rankings. Sarfaraz too has been impressive with entertaining half-centuries in both innings in Rajkot.

Patidar though was a bundle of nerves in both the Tests.

While the batting order looks settled despite Patidar’s poor outings, the bowling will see a change because of Jasprit Bumrah’s absence. It was assumed that Mukesh Kumar would take Bumrah’s place but the think-tank is toying with the idea of giving Akash Deep an opportunity.

The Bengal pacer had been successful for India A against England Lions, picking up 10 wickets, and has also impressed the team management at nets.

The conditions at the JSCA Stadium in Ranchi will also come into focus. If the cracks on the pitch do open up and afford turn, India going in with four spinners can’t be ruled out.

A final decision is expected on Thursday.

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