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IPL

KL Rahul – The Player With Innate Style

Written By: Bhawana Jarwal

There are many stylish cricketers across the globe, but if we talk about Indian cricketers, KL Rahul has to be one of the most dashing Indian cricketers, both in terms of looks and his batting. Kannur Lokesh Rahul, aged 29, was born into a middle-class family with a teaching background. He has always been a sports geek since his childhood. His parents supported his love for sports but only on the condition of achieving good grades in school.

The First Indian Century Debutant

KL Rahul made his international debut on 26th December 2014 against Australia in the Boxing Day test and failed miserably in both innings as he scored 3 and 1 respectively. He made his ODI debut around one and a half year later, on June 11, 2016 against Zimbabwe, scored a whopping century on his debut, and thus became the first Indian ever to score an ODI century on debut. His T20 debut also came against the same opposition after a week.

KL Rahul’s career went through some turbulent times, as an aftermath of an episode at Coffee with Karan in 2019. He was in and out of the team and the playing XI and faced severe backlash during the period. In the Australia ODI series in 2020, he got the opportunity cum responsibility to bat in the middle order, and since then, he has not looked back. He became the most trusted middle-order batter for the men in blue in the 50 over format. He has the best record as a middle-order player, during this period, playing gritty knocks in tough and testing venues.

A mediocre IPL debut and the run drought

Now coming to the Indian premier league, KL Rahul was first bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore as a Wicketkeeper-batsman in the year 2013, owing to his performance in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy. Although the first-ever IPL season he played was not encouraging for him, as he played 5 matches, where he got to bat only in 2 innings and scored only 20 runs. After IPL, he had a sublime run in the Ranji trophy in the 2013-14 season, where he amassed 1033 runs, at an average of 68.86. This performance helped him in the next IPL season, as Hyderabad bought him for a whopping 1 Crore rupees at auctions but he could not live up to the expectations, with 166 runs at an average of 20.75 in 8 innings from 11 matches.

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The birth of a reformed player and persona

The biggest turnaround in KL Rahul’s career came in 2016 when he was brought back by RCB for INR 1 crore.  He conveyed in an interview, that the 2016 IPL Season was a career-defining season for him. In 2016, KL Rahul played all 14 matches and scored 397 runs at an average of 44.11.  He showed incredible flexibility during that IPL season by batting at 4, adapting well to the most difficult slot in the shorter format. It helped him in the acceleration of his career and also to gain good momentum.

He got injured with an untimely shoulder injury and missed the whole IPL in the next edition in 2017. In the year 2018, KL Rahul was released by RCB and went to the auction pool. Punjab Kings XI showed no hesitation in roping him and engaged in a bidding war with the Hyderabad franchise, finally settling with humongous 11 crores. He repaid the faith shown by the franchise by displaying his wide-ranged skillset, scoring 659 runs with a healthy strike rate of 158.4 and an average of 54.9. Since then, KL Rahul – the batsman has been on a journey to set his datum high and high every time, proving why he is among the best in business. KL Rahul has continuously scored 500+ runs from the year 2018. One of my favorite knocks from him came in the same year, against KKR where he smashed 60 runs in just 27 balls.

The Golden Run

In 2020, the skipper hat was handed over to him, assigning the duty of the captain of the Punjab team. Unlike others, KL didn’t feel any pressure of captaincy on his batting, and in the same year, KL won the orange cap. His heroics couldn’t help Punjab to qualify, as they finished at number 6 in the points table. In the year 2021, he again continued his Midas touch with the bat for his team by scoring 626 runs. He was the third-highest run-getter for the season, but Punjab failed to qualify and finished at number 6 yet again.

After the season, when the time for retention came ahead of the Mega auction, there were talks that KL wanted to leave Punjab. The rumors proved to be true when Punjab didn’t retain their skipper. KL then was then drafted by the RPSG group-owned Lucknow franchise, LSG for a gargantuan amount of 17 Crores. He became the joint highest-paid player in the IPL history along with Virat Kohli, who was signed for the same amount by RCB in 2018. Lucknow then announced KL as their captain ahead of the Mega Auction.

The constrained strike rate

KL Rahul in IPL 2018 had numerous finest and of highest quality performances by a batsman in IPL history. But since that edition, he has been a bit conservative as a batsman. Since 2019, the drop in strike rate has been an issue for him. He received a lot of flak and got criticized from everywhere because of the same. I believe that one of the main reasons was the middle-order collapses and the way PBKS used to lose the games in crunch situations, which forced him to play more cautiously.  Personally, I would like to see a free-flowing KL Rahul this year. It will help boost the whole morale of Lucknow and for the Indian team as well, preparing for the upcoming T20I WC.

In a cricket worshipping country like India, where players like MS Dhoni are treated as Gods, it is very difficult for a wicket-keeper batsman to stand in there and do the job. I feel that KL Rahul has done a commendable job for every franchise he has been associated with, both with the bat and gloves on. Although the comparison of the latter with the former (The Wicketkeeping God) seems unfair and rather non-conforming, but KL has surely done a praise-worthy job over the years.

KL Rahul will be starting a new journey from IPL 2022, along with donning the vice-captain role of the Indian team in white-ball cricket. With leading Lucknow, it will be a test for him as well as for future dreams to become the Indian captain. His stint at PBKS as a captain didn’t go down well, but KL will be looking to change his fortune with the new franchise. Let’s hope he can shut the mouth of his naysayers and lead this newcomer side to title glory now and in coming years as well. Wishing him lots of good luck.

Complete List of Odds of all IPL Teams

Mumbai Indians – 5.50

Delhi Capitals – 6.00

Chennai Super Kings – 7.00

Royal Challengers Bangalore – 8.00

Punjab Kings – 8.00

Kolkata Knight Riders – 9.00

Rajasthan Royals – 10.00

Lucknow Super Giants – 11.00

Gujarat Titans – 13.00

Sunrisers Hyderabad – 21.00