When was the last time you had found a player whom you could compare with The Great Rahul Dravid? For a long period of time, It was Cheteshwar Pujara who was called as the rightful successor of Dravid for his calm demeanour and solid batting technique. The comparisons quickly evaporated when bowlers started breaching Pujara’s defence, particularly when he travelled overseas. Balls started going through his bat and pad on a regular basis and even though Rahul Dravid had the same problem in the final stage of his career, for a major part, his defensive game was as secure as the premises of the White House.
Pujara has been replaced by a different player. He is from Karnataka, he can open the innings, can bat at 3, 4 or 5, can keep the wickets and his name is Rahul as well. Who wouldn’t draw comparisons between these two gentlemen who share the same name and same skills? So why not jump on the bandwagon and check ourselves how similar or dissimilar are they?
- Just to avoid any confusion, Rahul would mean KL Rahul and Rahul Dravid would be addressed by Dravid in the entire article.
Test Debuts at unusual positions
KL Rahul made his Test debut against Australia at MCG. Being an opener, he was told to bat at 6 with no vacancy for the opening slot in that team. He played a horrible shot to get caught at short fine leg when he tried to slog sweep Nathan Lyon. Dravid was a number 3 batsman in Domestic cricket but with an injury to Sanjay Manjrekar, he made his Test Debut at number 7 against England at Lords. Contrastingly, Dravid had a memorable debut where he stitched important partnership with another debutante Sourav Ganguly who went on to score a 100. Dravid got out just 5 runs before of his 100 but that was enough to buy him some more time at International level.
50 specialists for an entire season
In the 2017-18 season, after a mediocre outing against Bangladesh where he could only manage the scores of 2 and 10 in both innings , Rahul didn’t play a single game where he didn’t score at least a half century. In the famous Border-Gavaskar series against Australia in 2017, Rahul had scores of 64 & 10 in Pune Test, 90 & 51 in Bengaluru, 67 at Ranchi and 60 & 51 to wrap up the series in Dharamshala. He scored 6 consecutive half centuries but failed to convert either of them into a triple figure.
By doing so, he joined the elite club with Gundappa Vishwanath and Rahul Dravid who had already achieved this feat. Dravid too had scored 6 consecutive 50s in 6 innings in the 1997-98 season. 3 of his 50s came against Australia while the other 3 was scored against Sri Lankan bowling. KL then had to leave this club as he went on to score 8 fifties in 7 consecutive Tests.
Contrasting progressions in Test careers
The tale of Test careers of Rahul Dravid and KL Rahul appear like two siblings leaving from the same house for the same purpose but in two different directions. While the elder sibling, Rahul Dravid in this case went the right way, unfortunately for Rahul, his Test career upto this point has chosen to go to a different place losing it’s original destination with the point of divergence being the time when both batsmen scored 6 or more consecutive fifties in a season.
While Rahul Dravid kept scoring runs at a great consistency in the longest format and ultimately hit his peak in between 2002-06 period, KL Rahul has averaged only 20 since his streak of consecutive half centuries have been broken.
Both versatile enough to adjust to everything
Like a versatile actor who fits in every role, or like a potato which fits in every vegetable, both the Rahuls have performed different roles depending upon the team’s requirements. Lokesh Rahul, who is naturally an opener was asked to bat at 4 in the World Cup 2019. When Dhawan got injured, he was moved back to his comfortable position. In the ongoing series against Australia, he batted at 3 and 5 and produced scores like 47 & 80 in two games.
Although, the sample size is still very low especially when you are comparing him with Rahul Dravid who played 109 matches at 3 , 102 games at 4 and 69 games at 5 and managed to maintain same consistency regardless of the positions, it’s the ” Anything for Team ” attitude which puts both of them in the same bracket.
And the most obvious reason…….
And obviously, both can keep wickets which is the most evident similarity and most focused reason behind their comparisons. When Team India wanted to go with 7 batsmen and 4 bowlers tactics in 2003 WC, Rahul Dravid was offered the role of wicket-keeping which he had happily accepted. It was a move which had paid off India in the preceding year.
KL Rahul’s case was a more forced one. Team India was left with no choice with their regular keeper Rishabh Pant receiving a blow in his head in the first ODI. Lokesh Rahul being the only player with decent keeping skills put his hands up and stood behind the wicket. He did have a great game behind the stumps in Rajkot after fumbling a few in Mumbai.
At the end, Yes KL Rahul is the first version of himself and not the second Rahul Dravid. Their performances can not be compared but if people draw similarities between them because of their selfless attitudes and multi-dimensional skills, they’re probably right but KL as captain will someday have to declare the inning when Kohli will be batting at 194* to justify all the comparisons with Dravid!