Dubai: Leading from the front? Yes. Oozing class? Yes.
This edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is just finishing its first week and there could be few more centuries, but it will be difficult to better the one KL Rahul scored against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday evening. It was a day when ‘KL,’ as he is addressed in the dressing room, could do no wrong as fortune also favoured the brave - if you know what I mean.
If batsmanship is about being pleasing to the eye, then there are few better sights in white ball cricket today that a resurgent Rahul in full glory. The perfect cricketing shots that the Kings XI captain unleashed on all sides of the wicket, albeit often aided by some poor line by the rival bowlers, broke the back of the opposition - while the last overs was simply a carnage.
The gift of timing and grace was never in question about the Karnataka star’s batting, and it’s now obvious that with added responsibility (of wicketkeeping) in the Indian team in the shorter format as well as the captain’s role with his IPL franchise, Rahul is now taking his cricket more seriously than ever before.
Not too many may be aware that he had gone back to the grind of domestic cricket in the 2019-20 season to spend more time at the wicket and it has paid off. He slammed 598 runs at an average of 66.44 in the 2019 Vijay Hazare Trophy, the domestic 50-over tournament, and 313 runs at 52.16 and a strike-rate of 155.72 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the T20 equivalent. There is a general perception that a batsman peaks at around his late 20s and there is no doubt that Rahul wants to seize the moment.
For RCB, what was worrying more than the big defeat was the manner their old failings came back after a reasonably compact performance in the first game. With the pace bowlers failing to test Rahul & co, the onus was once again on Yuzvendra Chahal to stem the flow of runs as well as taking wickets - and it’s a trait which has often prevented them from closing out matches in the past.
Finally, a word about Virat Kohli. You don’t often see him dropping two catches in an innings but there is a possibility that he was dazed by the ‘Ring of Fire’ in keeping his eyes on the skier. Coming in at No.4, he tried to make use of the powerplay field placement against Sheldon Cottrell’s pace and paid the price. And if that was not enough, his side was also penalised for slow over-rate.
Not a good day in office, in his own words!