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Ganguly on Rahul: 'When you fail for a while, obviously there will be criticism'

"Perhaps message from team management is that he has to wait," Ganguly says about Shubman Gill's Test future

PTI
27-Feb-2023
KL Rahul has had a fair bit of guidance - here, Gautam Gambhir chips in during the Delhi Test  •  BCCI

KL Rahul has had a fair bit of guidance - here, Gautam Gambhir chips in during the Delhi Test  •  BCCI

Sourav Ganguly isn't surprised at the criticism KL Rahul has been getting, saying "when you fail for a while, obviously there will be criticism". Ganguly also said that Rahul's problems in Test cricket - he hasn't crossed 25 in his last ten innings - are both technical and psychological.
"When you don't score runs in India, obviously you will get flak. KL Rahul hasn't been the only one. There have been players in the past also," Ganguly told PTI on the sidelines of a Delhi Capitals pre-season camp. "There's so much focus and attention with lot of pressure on players. The team management thinks he is an important player for the team. At the end of the day, what coach and captain thinks is important."
In the ongoing series against Australia, Rahul, opening the innings alongside Rohit Sharma, has returned scores of 20, 17 and 1. His last half-century came in Johannesburg in January 2022, the same series in which he scored his last Test century. Overall, after 47 Tests, he has an average of 33.44, which dips to 13.57 in the last 12 months (though the sample is of just four Tests).
"He has performed [over the years] but obviously you expect a lot more from a top-order batter playing for India because the standards set by others are so high," Ganguly said. "When you fail for a while, obviously there will be criticism. I am sure Rahul has ability and I am sure as and when he gets more opportunities, he will have to find ways to score."
When asked whether Rahul's problems were technical or psychological, Ganguly said, "Both."
The criticism has been severe. Rahul's statemate and senior colleague Venkatesh Prasad has perhaps been the most vocal, while on ESPNcricinfo's Match Day programme, Wasim Jaffer said earlier in the series that Rahul would have been dropped by now, and replaced by Shubman Gill had he not been the vice-captain of the team.
As such, while Rahul was the vice-captain for the first two Tests, no vice-captain has been named for the last two Tests of the series against Australia.
"It also makes it hard if you are playing on these sort of pitches as the balls are turning and bouncing," Ganguly said of Rahul's struggles. "There's uneven bounce and when you are not in form, it makes it even more harder."

Shubman Gill 'has to wait' - Sourav Ganguly

While Rahul has struggled, Gill, who has been in red-hot form in white-ball cricket in the recent past and has an average of 32 from 13 Tests, the last of them in December last year, has sat out. Ganguly suggested that Gill would have to wait his turn.
"I am sure when his time comes, he will also get a lot of opportunities," Ganguly said. "I think the selectors, the captain and the coach think of him and rate him very highly. That's why he is playing ODIs and T20Is, and he has performed as well.
"But at the present moment, perhaps message from team management is that he has to wait."
Though Rahul has faced the brunt of the criticism, it's true that most of India's top-order batters have had a rough time on the tricky pitches of Nagpur and Delhi. While the Australians have crossed 200 just once in four innings and recorded a sub-100 total once, none of the specialist Indian batters bar Rohit have had much success. India's three top run-getters are Rohit (183), Axar Patel (158) and Ravindra Jadeja (96), with Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, of the batters who have played both Tests, aggregating 76 and 38, respectively, so far.
And while R Ashwin and Jadeja have been incredible with the ball, Todd Murphy and Nathan Lyon have been impressive too.
"These are very tough wickets. I saw in the first two Tests and it's not easy, boss," Ganguly said. "Playing Ashwin, Jadeja, Lyon and the new guy, Todd Murphy, it is never easy with odd ball turning square. There is unevenness, there is everything happening for spinners."