Opportunity for Rahul to play statement knock on Eden belter

KKR takes on LSG at the Eden Gardens (Image: LSG/Debasis Sen)

“KL Rahul is stretching himself,” said an IPL insider. A player is the best judge of his body and only Rahul knows if he is pushing the envelope, after coming back from an injury lay-off.

The Lucknow Super Giants captain recovered from a quad injury before the IPL and got the go-ahead from the National Cricket Academy, reportedly with a rider that he shouldn’t be ’keeping in the first few matches. Rahul, however, has been playing as a wicketkeeper-batter right from the first game. With the T20 World Cup round the corner, he couldn’t be blamed, even if he is “stretching himself” a bit.

Rahul is not a certainty for the T20 World Cup and in this IPL, he is still searching for a statement knock that will help him stake a claim. A tally of 165 runs from five matches at a strike-rate of 137.50 attests a modest return and the 31-year-old would like to up his strike-rate a few notches. On Friday, against Delhi Capitals, he was batting well until a Kuldeep Yadav delivery fizzed off the surface, kept a little low and took the bottom edge to Rishabh Pant behind the stumps.

The pitch for the LSG-DC game wasn’t a batting paradise. The Eden Gardens surface for the Kolkata Knight Riders versus Lucknow Super Giants game is likely to be a belter. “The first game here saw a run-fest. More than 400 runs had been scored over two innings. Hopefully, the pitch for Sunday’s game would be pretty similar,” an Eden ground staff told RevSportz.

This should encourage Rahul. He is opening the innings and will have the advantage of setting the tone in the powerplay. As a batter, he doesn’t have Rohit Sharma’s range. Nor is he a 360-degree player like Suryakumar Yadav. But on a surface where the ball is expected to come on to the bat, he can play through the line. In fact, this is probably Rahul’s best opportunity to play a statement knock.

KKR have two crafty spinners in Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy. The former has an economy rate of 7.37 after four matches, while Varun has been a bit more expensive, going at 9.57. Then again, Rahul is a fantastic player against spin and should relish the opportunity to score big.

As a captain, he needs to get Nicholas Pooran’s batting order right. Pooran, LSG’s highest scorer after five games — 178 runs at a strike-rate of 167.92 — came at No. 5 against Delhi Capitals and at the end of the match Rahul admitted it was probably a mistake. “In hindsight, can wonder if we could have done something differently,” he said as regards to Pooran’s batting position.

Mayank Yadav, LSG’s young pace sensation, is still recovering from “soreness in lower abdominal area” and as Rahul said on Friday, it might take another two games before he comes back.


LSG to wear green and maroon

LSG will don Mohun Bagan colours, green and maroon, for Sunday’s game and it might give them significant away support. Both LSG and Mohun Bagan Super Giant are owned by the RP Sanjiv Goenka Group. On Monday, Bagan will take on Mumbai City FC at Salt Lake Stadium, where a victory will see them clinch the League Winners Shield in the ISL.

The Starc question

Meanwhile, just two wickets in four matches and an economy rate of 11, is Mitchell Starc justifying his Rs 24.75 crore price tag? Is Gautam Gambhir happy with the bowler’s performance? The KKR mentor was asked this question at the pre-match press conference and he emphatically defended Starc.

“We got three wins out of four. Why should I not be happy with everyone’s performance?” Gambhir said. “See, people have bad days, people have good days. Ultimately it’s the team that needs to win. And we have got decent results in the first four games of the competition and we all know how big a threat Starc is. We know what impact he can have in this competition.”

For the record, KKR haven’t yet beaten LSG in the IPL, as the head-to-head stands 3-0 in the latter’s favour.