Should KL Rahul Bat Lower Down The Order In ODIs? Here's What The Numbers Say
India's middle-order struggles against South Africa in the opening two ODIs have ignited a debate on whether KL Rahul should bat lower down the order instead of opening the innings.
- Many believe KL Rahul should bat lower down the order instead of opening
- KL Rahul posted scores of 12 and 55 in the two ODIs vs SA so far
- Numbers show he can indeed be more effective in the middle-order in ODIs
India's tame surrender to South Africa in the opening two ODIs and the failure of the middle-order in both matches have ignited a debate on whether KL Rahul should bat lower down the order instead of opening the innings. Rahul, who is captaining India in the ODI series in the absence of the injured Rohit Sharma, has posted scores of 12 and 55 in the two ODIs so far. His fifty in the second ODI that included a 115-run partnership with Rishabh Pant for the third wicket, put India in a strong position but the batters below the pair failed to build on the foundation and India's total of 287/6 eventually proved inadequate against the Proteas.
Rahul acknowledged the poor performance of the middle-order after the loss in the 2nd ODI.
"We are trying to get better at things we haven't done well in the past. Partnerships, middle order becomes crucial when we are entering a big tournament, want to get better at bowling in the middle overs and these are the few things which are really obvious and right in front of us," said Rahul at the post-match presentation on Friday.
"We have spoken about it and it's only up to us to get better, learn from it and find a way," he added.
Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt too said that Rahul dropping down to the middle-order would help remedy the team's batting struggles.
"The immediate remedy for this I think is for KL Rahul to keep wickets and bat in his usual position in ODIs. They can add an extra batter higher up the order and a genuine fast bowler in place of Bhuvneshwar (Kumar). That will lengthen your batting order - someone in the top-order who can build pressure on the opposition and then your middle order will have loads of experience," Butt recently said on his YouTube channel.
Numbers show that Rahul can indeed be more effective batting in the middle-order in ODIs.
Since the 2019 ODI World Cup, Rahul has played as an opener in six ODIs, scoring 271 runs at an average of 45.17 and a strike rate of 81.87.
He has played once each in No. 3 and No. 4, scoring 47 and 108, respectively. Batting at No. 5, he has done significantly better than as an opener, scoring 446 runs in nine innings at an average of 63.71 and a strike rate of 114.35.
Since the 2019 ODI World Cup, Rahul is placed fifth in terms of most runs scored from the middle-order, although in fewer innings than the four batters placed above him.
Moreover, Rahul as an opener has a strike rate of 80.49 and scores a boundary after 12 balls which is the worst balls/boundary rate among all Indian openers since 2016 in ODIs.
India will eye a consolation win in the final ODI against South Africa on Sunday.