EXCLUSIVE | India Should Not Go With KL Rahul as a Wicketkeeper, Play Him as a Batter in England Tests: Monty Panesar

KL Rahul kept the wickets during the two-match Test series in South Africa. (AFP Photo)

KL Rahul kept the wickets during the two-match Test series in South Africa. (AFP Photo)

In a chat with News18, Monty Panesar says India should play KL Rahul as a batter and advises the team to pick either KS Bharat or young Dhruv Jurel for the role of wicketkeeper.

‘Bazball vs Rohit Sharma and Co’ – India’s first big and bit unusual challenge in Test cricket this year begins on January 25. India have been a dominant side at their home for the past decade as they are currently enjoying a winning streak of 16 series on a trot but now Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum are standing in front of them with their blockbuster ‘Bazball’ approach. The England cricket team has redefined Test cricket after Stokes took over the captaincy charge with McCullum as the head coach. They have been playing an ultra-attacking brand of cricket irrespective of the situation in the red-ball cricket which made them a fierce unit ready to take on anyone. With the same approach, Stokes and Co. drew the Ashes last year despite losing the first two Tests.

On the other hand, India have entered the transitional phase with players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Umesh Yadav being left out of their Test team set-up. Players like Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Mukesh Kumar and Prasidh Krishna have entered the set-up in recent times. The young batters have performed well at home but have yet to prove their consistency in overseas conditions.

Also Read: Atherton Predicts India to Beat England in Five-Test Series

Meanwhile, the home conditions will give a big advantage to the Indian team as turning tracks are expected to create problems for England to execute the ‘Bazball’.

Former England spinner Monty Panesar, who starred along with Graeme Swann in their team’s 2-1 win in the 2012 four-match Test series over India, in an exclusive conversation with News18 CricketNext, feels that Rohit Sharma and Co. will look to play dominant cricket in the upcoming series. Panesar talked about how India will look to prepare spin-friendly pitches to outclass England.

Monty Panesar knows what it takes to succeed on Indian pitches. (AFP Photo)

“Sometimes you get these types of pitches where they finish in three days. I just think India at home wants to be very dominant. I think they can win on flat pitches and they want to win in the dominant fashion and they will do it on turning pitches. It’s okay, they want to be very dominant, so this could go either one way or the other. Either England will get bowled out for 150 and the Test match could be over in 2 and half days or it could be the other way around, it could be a very close Test match and India get over the line,” Monty Panesar told News18 CricketNext.

Panesar has rich experience of playing in India as he has played 8 Test matches here but it was the 2012 tour where he spun his web around the Indian batters and claimed 17 scalps in three matches to help England script history.

The former left-arm spinner advised India to plan their approach on similar lines which Australia adopted during the Ashes 2023 where they managed to retain the coveted trophy.

“I think England are going to be very attacking and if India gets surprised by it then they have not prepared for that. They must prepare for that (England playing attacking cricket), like what Australia did during the Ashes where they were like let England pull up the first punch and then let’s see what happens. We will react accordingly as we know how good we are,” he added.

Panesar asserted that it will be crucial for India to analyse England’s strategy and for that, they need to let them take the first shot.

“They need to go with England attacking first and see how that goes and then once they find out the strategy and then they succeed, then India would be like they know how to beat England,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, if India decided to go with the turning tracks, it might force them to change their team combination as KL Rahul doesn’t have much experience in keeping wickets on the turning tracks in the red-ball format.

Panesar also suggested that India shouldn’t play Rahul as a wicketkeeper but include him in the XI as a proper batter and advised the Indian management to pick either KS Bharat or young Dhruv Jurel to keep the wickets against England.

“I don’t think India should go with KL Rahul as a wicketkeeper, I think he should actually play as a batsman. They should play their best keeper – either KS Bharat or the new guy Dhruv Jurel. They are going to play their best keeper. This is how India should pick their team, first you pick your best keeper then pick the three spinners you are going to play. then after you pick your top five or top 6 batters,” he suggested.

However, it will make things difficult to include both Shreyas Iyer and Rahul in the XI if they decide to play a specialist wicketkeeper but Panesar feels that they have to keep one or the other in the XI but they need the best keeper on turning tracks.

“One or the other, Shreyas Iyer is obviously very attacking but I reckon India on turning pitches are going to play their best keeper,” Panesar concluded.

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