June 19, 2024


There was an Instagram reel by a social media influencer that went viral last year, when the interviewee was asked to decipher an incomplete footage of a DRS call. Without having a look, he says “out hai sir” and then asks the interviewer to shift the focus of the photo and there stood Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind, taking another immaculate call in what has come to be known as the ‘Dhoni’ Review System (DRS). But in this World Cup, it won’t be a misnomer if KL Rahul gets the DRS moniker in his name and we call it the ‘Decision ‘Rahul’ System’.

At least on five occasions over the course of the World Cup, the Indian wicket-keeper prevented an excited bowler or his skipper from raising a ‘T’ for the umpire.

A lot of moving parts have come together in the tournament and one of the important cogs in the wheel is Rahul, whose 386 runs at near 99 strike-rate and 77 average has slipped under the radar because of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami‘s brilliance but he has been that calming influence which is a pre-requisite of every team.

Magnificent when in full flow and completely lousy other times, a picture of calm when in form but ready to play a dishevelled stroke now and then, Rahul has been an enigma in Indian cricket for close to a decade.

For someone with Test centuries in Sydney, Lord’s and Centurion, a man of his calibre could be termed an “under-achiever” as he is no less compared to a Rohit or Kohli, when it comes to the talent quotient.

But between spells of brilliance, there has been those lulls which, also by his own admission, let self doubts creep in but in this World Cup, if anyone has been a symbol of assurance, it is Rahul, the keeper.

That catch to dismiss Devon Conway in the semi-final, would have certainly warmed the cockles of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s heart.

With 16 dismissals in 10 games (15 catches and 1 stumping), he is second only to Quinton de Kock, a specialist keeper.

For someone, who wasn’t a regular keeper till a few years back, this effort has been phenomenal. What has also stood out is Rahul’s judgement of DRS calls.

The reason for that is his perfect footwork behind the stumps as he has a perfect idea of where the ball finishes, says former India keeper Deep Dasgupta.

“DRS is not just a wicketkeeper’s call only. The wicketkeeper can neither gauge the impact nor the height. The impact (whether pitched within stumps) is generally a bowler’s call or the skipper standing at mid-on or mid-off.

“The guy stationed adjacent to square leg umpire needs to check the height while the keeper with his movement would get an idea where the ball finishes,” Dasgupta explained the whole process.

From the looks of it, Rohit might not come across like that but he is way more process-oriented than a Kohli when it comes to DRS calls.

What has helped has been Rahul’s presence behind the stumps as he could dissuade the bowler because of his perfect concept of where the ball could finally finish.

While Dhoni was the master of getting his DRS calls right, Dasgupta gave an interesting insight into how the legendary Indian skipper had such a high percentage of correct decisions.

“If you check the numbers, most of Dhoni’s DRS calls has gone with Umpires’ Call. So when India didn’t get a decision, they at least kept the review. There would never be any outrageous calls. Same with Rahul. He is someone who could temper an enthusiastic bowler’s expectations,” Dasgupta.

Rahul’s glovework has been as good as anyone and technique of letting the ball come and ‘literally melt’ into his gloves has been a perfect sight for the lovers of the game.

And for someone, who is not keeping Kuldeep Yadav regularly, it has been quite impressive to see how he has picked the left-arm wrist spinner from his hand and adjusted his footwork accordingly.

Dasgupta, who has been working as a broadcaster, had a chance to interact with Rahul and he felt that mentally, he thinks as a keeper and that has made a world of difference to his keeping.

“He told me during one of the interactions that he doesn’t see himself as a part-time keeper and looks at himself as a keeper-batter,” Dasgupta said.

It is an interesting how the shift in mindset has made the difference.

Now for people on the outside, Rahul is still specialist batter, who is keeping. So even if he is making a mistake he would never lose the war of perception and fans would be way more forgiving than what they would be if Ishan Kishan, a specialist keeper, makes the same mistake.

Rahul, indeed, has been keeper of India’s fortunes.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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