Dubai: Punjab Kings skipper KL Rahul will have a point to prove after being touted as one of the possible replacements for India’s Twenty20 captaincy, which will fall vacant when Virat Kohli hands over the reins at the end of the World Cup in UAE.
So far, the opener has handled the pressure of leading the side well, sitting in the second spot among the leading run-getters of IPL 2021 with 331 runs. However, his leadership skills will matter in inspiring the Punjab Kings to produce performances that could take them to the playoffs.
The first test is on Tuesday [September 21, 2021) at the Dubai International Stadium against a depleted Rajasthan Royals, who are level on points (six points) with Punjab but one spot ahead at fifth on a better run rate.
Though it could be a clash of equals, after losing Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, the Royals are short on quality, despite getting some impressive replacements. Buttler has been the run-scorer with Sanju Samson this season, so the numerous utility players will have to deliver the goods in his absence.
Rajasthan skipper Samson too has a point to prove. The stylish right handed-batsman and wicketkeeper has been consistently overlooked for the India role (he doesn’t figure in India’s Twenty20 World Cup squad).
The UAE has been a favourite hunting ground for Samson, who first proved his capabilities in India colours in the Under-19 World Cup. While Samson was the mainstay and vice-captain of the team, Shreyas Iyer was in and out of the team. But today, Iyer has moved faster, while Samson’s progress has been slow, unable to cement his place in the Indian team. More runs in the IPL could help him catch the selectors’ eyes.
Punjab and Rajasthan have been inconsistent this season, but having played one extra game, Punjab need to ensure they don’t have any more slip-ups to keep their playoff hopes alive. In Tuesday’s game, the Kings, who have most of the team intact, including the Universal Boss Chris Gayle, have the edge over the Royals.