back icon


IPL 2021: Can KL Rahul turn around the tables?

Last updated on 01 Apr 2021 | 01:08 PM
Google News IconFollow Us
IPL 2021: Can KL Rahul turn around the tables?

Rahul played like a near-perfect T20 opener in IPL 2018 but his approach in the following two seasons wasn't well-oriented for the shortest format

After watching KL Rahul in IPL 2018, his current version doesn’t seem to be enough entertaining. Rahul played like a near-perfect T20 opener in IPL 2018. However, his approach in the next two seasons, particularly last year, wasn’t well-oriented for the shortest format.

Rahul had a strike rate close to 160 in IPL 2018 but it was under 130 in 2020. He has been among runs in all the three seasons but his impact has taken a massive hit. Here is an analysis of his performances in the last three seasons and what lies ahead for him in the upcoming edition.

Against pacers in the Powerplay

Rahul is an excellent player of pace-bowling in white-ball cricket. He has a good range of shots and can play shots all around the ground. Rahul is comfortable against high-end pace and also plays the short ball well. The opening batsman is capable of playing classical strokes in the Powerplay and utilize the fielding restrictions without taking a lot of risks.

In 2019 IPL, Rahul started slowly in the Powerplay. This could have been due to his poor Test form, which would have led him to the circumspect approach. The World Cup 2019 squad selection was around the corner then, and it might have played into his mind. 

Rahul was the skipper of his side in IPL 2020 and played with more responsibility. Also, Mayank Agarwal played the role of an aggressor in the Powerplay and Rahul took the backseat. However, it is arguable if it was the right decision.

Rahul played plenty of expansive cover drives and lofted shots in IPL 2018. However, he limited playing cover drives and other shots in the following seasons. While 31% of Rahul’s boundaries against pacers in the Powerplay in IPL 2018 came in the cover region, the numbers dropped to 24% and 17% in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Against pacers in the Powerplay, Rahul attacked full-length and short balls and played safe against back-of-length deliveries across three seasons. However, his strike rate against good-length (6-8 m) balls decreased. It was 131.1 in 2018, dipped to 76.7 and 119.8 in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Rahul was over-conservative and played safer than he should have.

In the past two seasons, Rahul resisted his temptation to play the lofted shots and score quickly in the Powerplay. Punjab Kings would be better served if Rahul is a bit more attacking at the beginning of his innings.

The downfall against spinners

One of the main reasons behind KL’s success in IPL 2018 was his hitting ability against spinners. In IPL 2018, his intent against spinners was excellent. Rahul regularly stepped out of the crease to smash boundaries in 2018. 

However, he slowed down against away-turners from 2019 onwards. In IPL 2020, Rahul’s game-play against spinners appeared limited as he couldn’t hit even the off-spinners. The right-handed batsman - who had a strike rate of 166.67 in IPL 2018 - struck at 94.4 against the slow bowlers in IPL 2020. He had a balls-per-boundary ratio of 4 in 2018 which rose to 18 in the last season.

Rahul’s approach in both seasons were so contrasting that it was hard to believe if he was the same batsman. He has increased the number of nudges and pushes against spinners since 2019. Rahul also limited his shots against spinners in 2020 and didn’t attempt even one slog in the entire season.

While Rahul pushed or defended just 20.83% of balls against spinners in IPL 2018, the numbers sky-rocketed to 36.62% and 37.32% in 2019 and 2020 respectively. 

Rahul’s intent indeed has been a problem, however, his skills against spinners have also been affected. His slow-down approach might have also played a part. A bit of work and fixing his intent will help him in regaining his 2018 old-self.

The ‘bat deep’ approach of Rahul

Rahul didn’t follow the ‘bat deep’ approach in 2018 as he continued attacking even in the 7-11 phase, and as a result, he didn’t face a lot of balls in the 12-16 phase. However, he tweaked his method from 2019 onwards. Rahul compromised on his strike rate in overs 7-11 and faced plenty of balls in the 12-16 phase.

Rahul had a balls-per-innings ratio of 29.7 in IPL 2018 which increased to 37 in 2020. The opening batsman looked to play safer cautiously batting first in particular. He had a balls-per-innings ratio of around 19 while batting first in IPL 2018 which sky-rocketed to 45 in 2020.

How can Punjab’s batting unit complement Rahul this season?

Responsibility, the performance of the rest of the batting unit, poor pre-season form and question over his place in the national side have affected Rahul’s intent and mindset. However, for the betterment of his side this season, the captain needs to upgrade his returns on the strike rate front. No ‘Orange Cap’ winner has ever recorded a lower strike rate in a season than Rahul did in IPL 2020.

Mayank complemented Rahul well last season. Nicholas Pooran’s IPL 2020 returns should boost their confidence. In fact, the southpaw should be regularly used to hit spinners, especially in overs 7-11. Rahul’s numbers, in the mentioned phase, have deteriorated in the past two seasons. Thus, Pooran can allow Rahul to take his time, given he starts well in the Powerplay.

Punjab Kings' batting coach, Wasim Jaffer told TOI, "KL batted a little timidly last season. He probably batted deeper because there was not much batting after No. 5, and Glenn Maxwell was not firing.  This time around, everyone will see an aggressive KL Rahul for sure."

The acquisition of Fabian Allen alongside the likes of Sarfaraz Khan, Prabhsimran Singh and Shahrukh Khan should inspire the Punjab skipper to shed the cautious approach.

Related Article