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IPL 2020: KL Rahul making the most out of his responsibilities at Kings XI Punjab

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Before the COVID-19 situation engulfed the world, KL Rahul was batting in full flow against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Naturally, he became one of the reasons many of us were looking forward to watch the IPL.

Even more so now that he had been entrusted with the responsibility of leading Kings XI Punjab. Would he be able to pick up from where he left? Would the captaincy be another speed-breaker or just the acceleration he needs?

Rahul self-admittedly was worried about the former too. He wondered if he’d be the same. In an interview with Cricbuzz before the season began, he mentioned the anxiety and frustration he experienced during the lockdown.

“I kept wondering if my skills would remain the same when I returned to the sport. I had nightmares. A couple of times I woke up in the middle of the night because I dreamt I had forgotten how to pick the line and length. It scared the hell out of me,” he said.

Also Read: IPL 2020: Records that KL Rahul broke with his 132* vs RCB

It’s only the second match and probably too soon to answer the second question but the highest score by an Indian batsman in the IPL is the perfect demonstration on how to lead from the front. That it came against his former franchise, Royal Challengers Bangalore, one that we didn’t think would ever let him go, makes this innings all the more special.

At Kings XI Punjab, he’s not their third best batsman. He’s not under anybody’s shadow. He’s not one of the stars. Here, he is his own person. Their best batsman. Wicket-keeper. And, their leader. He is THE STAR.

His 132* against RCB is specially stunning because even before the match he felt he hadn’t found the same control he was batting with, earlier this year. This match, however, was a lesson on how to play a controlled innings. At no point did he do anything fancy, and exerted control by keeping the scoreboard ticking and building the innings while capitalizing on the freebies Umesh Yadav, Dale Steyn and Navdeep Saini dished out.

Also Read: Can ‘batsman’ KL Rahul work his magic on captaincy debut for KXIP?

He was comfortably opening his bat against full-length deliveries and the bowlers giving too much width outside off in the shorter ones they bowled only helped his case. He scored 52 runs in 20 balls off short balls including bouncers in his innings. In fact, 111 of his 132 runs came when the line bowled was outside off-stump.

His innings found another gear in the 10th over where Yadav was taken for 20 overs including a six off a free-hit. His acceleration found no bumps as Steyn’s repeated slow balls became predictable and too easy for him to go after. The little pace variation that the bowlers had to offer was in vain anyway because Rahul was particularly brutal against pacers, scoring 107 in 50 balls against them.

Throughout the innings, only the overs bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal provided a sigh of relief for the bowlers. Unlike the Sunrisers Hyderabad who succumbed to Chahal in the first outing, Rahul played him out cautiously but smartly.

He made 16 off the 13 deliveries he faced against him and reserved his onslaught for the remaining over of Steyn who ended up with 4-0-57-0 by the end of the innings. Umesh was held back yet, RCB’s never-changing death bowling troubles equipped Rahul to help his team pile 74 runs in the last four overs with the last two bringing 49 alone.

Also Read: Playing with MS Dhoni has been an honour: KL Rahul

It takes nothing away from this innings but if we were to remember the factors that equipped Rahul to score the way he did, we must take a brief moment to talk about Virat Kohli’s butter fingers. He was once dropped at 83 and then in the next over when he was at 89. Kohli’s shoulders dropped because he knew what that augured for his team.

After the first drop, he went on to score 49 off 14 deliveries.

After the second drop, he scored 42 runs in the nine deliveries he faced.

For Kohli, it was just the beginning of a really, really bad day at the office. But for KL Rahul, it was just the beginning of his season as a leader. His second IPL ton somehow sent out the message that inspite of the nervousness and anxiety, he is now capable of doing extraordinary things. So, the appropriate thing for us to do is brace ourselves, get ready for it – the OG KL Rahul has arrived.