KL Rahul or Shubman Gill? It won't be an easy decision either way

All that remained was the pseudoscience of watching nets and observing body language, as neither let go of any chance to bat

KL Rahul and Shubman Gill bat in adjacent nets, India vs Australia, Indore, February 27, 2023

KL Rahul and Shubman Gill bat in adjacent nets  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd/Karthik Krishnaswamy

At around 2.30 on Monday afternoon, the press box at the Holkar Stadium in Indore came to life. A line of reporters pressed up against the glass front of the box, and whipped out their cameras and phone cameras. Down at the practice pitches on the edge of the outfield, Shubman Gill and KL Rahul were batting side by side.
At the halfway point of this Border-Gavaskar series, debate over the composition of India's XI has quietened to the extent that it's nearly non-existent. Nearly, because there's still the question of Gill vs Rahul, Rahul vs Gill.
On Monday, two days out from the third Test, Gill batted for longer than any other member of India's top order, and Rahul batted for nearly as long. India's nets sessions seldom throw up easy answers to tricky questions.
Before anyone else had had even padded up, Gill was halfway through a lengthy stint against India's throwdown specialists, with the left arm of Nuwan Seneviratne getting through a serious workout. Anyone watching this would have inferred that Gill was preparing to face Mitchell Starc, who's likely to return to Australia's XI in two days' time.
But if you shifted your gaze to a different part of the ground, you'd have seen Rahul practising slip catches at the same time.
Gill then got rid of his protective gear, as first Cheteshwar Pujara - and then Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli - took his place in the nets. But Gill was back soon enough, with Rahul alongside him. And when Pujara returned with Shreyas Iyer, Gill and Rahul moved over to another practice pitch, near the opposite square boundary.
Neither was letting go of any chance to bat. Make of it what you will.
There were no hints to be gleaned from the day's press conference either. India sent out KS Bharat, the least experienced member of their XI in the first two Tests, and he dead-batted the Rahul-Gill question smartly, saying it was above his pay grade to answer it.
All that remained, then, was the pseudoscience of watching nets sessions and observing body language. Rahul exudes a downbeat diffidence at the best of times; he's currently not going through the best of times, and he exuded the same sort of energy.
Both Gill and Rahul are languid, effortless strokeplayers, but they're languid in different ways. Gill is languid from start to finish, languid even when the bowler is in his run-up, his bat held up in an utterly natural way with his hands alongside his back thigh. There's a sort of practiced stiffness to Rahul's stance, however - a little more crouched, with his hands behind his back thigh.
As Gill and Rahul batted side by side on Monday, their stances seemed to represent the points they currently occupy in their respective career arcs.
Rahul, of course, probably batted the same way when he was scoring big runs - and tough runs - two years ago in England and South Africa. But now you could watch him from an airconditioned vantage point above and behind him, and wonder whether his set-up at the crease was potentially closing him off and inhibiting his leg-side play.
Who can say. And who can say, in two days' time, whose name will feature alongside Rohit Sharma's on India's team sheet. It won't be an easy decision either way.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo