KL Rahul confirmed to Wisden India on Friday (March 31) that he was going to miss the 2017 Indian Premier League because of the shoulder injury he sustained in the first Test against Australia in Pune in late February.
Almost certain to be without Virat Kohli for the first few matches, Rahul’s absence came as another big blow for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Rahul, who will undergo a surgery in London soon, was aiming to reach full fitness in time for selection in India’s Champions Trophy 2017 squad – the tournament will be played in England and Wales in June.
Rahul’s hoick against Steve O’Keefe in the Indian first innings in Pune revealed his injury as he doubled up in pain even before David Warner had completed the catch. Rahul then scored 10 in the second innings as India went down by 333 runs.
Anil Kumble, the head coach, had said then: “I think the shot created the injury, not just to him but even to the team.” After his twin half-centuries in the second Test in Bangalore, Rahul said that the injury had prevented him from playing certain shots, which proved beneficial for the team.
Rahul played through the pain to end the series with six half-centuries as India reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-1 scoreline.
From Bangalore’s perspective, Rahul’s absence will create a void, as he was an integral part of their journey to the final last year. Given a chance in the XI against Gujarat Lions in Rajkot after Mandeep Singh got injured after the toss, Rahul made the most of the opportunity to end as Bangalore’s third-highest run-getter with a tally of 397 runs in 14 matches, which included four half-centuries. His strike-rate of 146.49 made up for Chris Gayle’s inconsistency in a big way for Bangalore.
Rahul had been picked up by Bangalore in 2013 before Sunrisers Hyderabad bought him in the 2014 auction. He returned to his home team last year, and not only made a big impact with the bat but also donned the wicketkeeper’s gloves, finishing with nine dismissals.
The tournament played a big role in Rahul realising his potential. He went on to make a century on his One-Day International debut in Zimbabwe, and then became only the third Indian, after Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, to score centuries in all three formats at the international level when he made an unbeaten 110 against West Indies in Florida.
Since the end of the IPL last year, Rahul has aggregated 1444 runs in 26 games for India across formats at an average of 55.53, with four centuries and nine half-centuries.
Even as he has made rapid strides on the field, Rahul’s issue with injuries has been a concern. He had hurt his right hamstring during the Kanpur Test against New Zealand at the start of the home season, and then returned to the team for the Visakhapatnam Test against England after proving his fitness through knocks of 76 and 106 for Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy 2016-17 game against Rajasthan.
Then, in Visakhapatnam, he had an external injury on his forearm, which got aggravated in Mohali. He missed that game before returning in Mumbai, and making 199 in Chennai, a game best remembered for Karun Nair’s triple-century.