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Anchor or aggressor? KL Rahul quiz

Lucknow Super Giants skipper scored 79 off 58 balls in the Eliminator against Royal Challengers Bangalore
KL Rahul
KL Rahul
File Photo

Indranil Majumdar   |   Calcutta   |   Published 27.05.22, 01:38 AM

Not for the first time has KL Rahul’s strike-rate returned to haunt him in the shortest format of the game.

“Strike rates are very, very overrated,” Rahul had famously said in 2020 after his scoring pattern took a significant hit.

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The Lucknow Super Giants captain and opener scored 79 off 58 balls in the Eliminator during their run-chase of 208 against Royal Challengers Bangalore at Eden Gardens on Wednesday. The runs came at a strike-rate of 136.21 while consuming nearly 50 per cent of the balls available in the innings.

Rahul failed to step on the accelerator when his team needed him the most. His first 42 balls saw him score 48 runs. In the end, the Super Giants needed 99 runs to win off just seven overs.

Their innings just crumbled in the last five overs. When chasing, Rahul’s conservative approach has seen him bat more like an anchor than an aggressor. His combined strike-rate in the last four IPL seasons has been 130.93.

Compare this with his strike-rate at the international level. In 56 T20Is, he has scored at 142.49 at an average of 40.69.

While there has been no doubt over his batting form, his strike rate has dropped drastically when chasing. Batting first, he scored 425 runs in eight innings at a strike rate of 148.60. While chasing, the numbers dropped to 191 runs in seven knocks at a strike rate of 113.02.

“I did focus on my stats that this season I didn’t score many runs in the second innings,” Rahul said after the match on Tuesday. “Yeah, I didn’t score too many runs in the second innings this season but in other seasons I have really done well, and I enjoy chasing.

“Sometimes you are not as successful. We won a few games but generally this season, we didn’t do well while chasing, so it’s something we need to learn from,” he said.

A weak middle-order has often been cited as the reason behind Rahul’s approach this season.

The debate is only going to get bigger as India begin their preparations, with a series versus South Africa, for the World Cup in October-November. Will he be best suited to open the innings with Rohit Sharma?  Will it be better for him to bat lower down the order?

Rahul will be leading India next month when regular captain Rohit will be taking a break before the Test versus England. It is always best suited to have the team’s best batsman open the innings and head coach Rahul Dravid will want him to bat at a position he’s most comfortable at.

Moreover, he has not batted at any other position besides the top-3 for his IPL franchise or Team India during the last four years. So it will be expecting too much from him to adjust to a new role before such an important tournament. 

Former national selector Devang Gandhi finds no logic in this argument. “This can happen to anyone. He is a champion and champions quickly make up for any shortcomings,” Devang told The Telegraph.

“To me what counts is average and strike rate. Clubbed together, anything above 150 is very good and above 160 is fantastic. It shows that he is consistent. And KL is well above 160 in T20Is, which shows his class. He will make up for any flaws.”



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