Rahul finds better T20 batting template

Rahul led from the front in the game versus CSK. PC – BCCI

More than a week ago, Lucknow Super Giants had once more defended a 160 plus score under the captaincy of KL Rahul. After the completion of that IPL game against Gujarat Titans, LSG’s X handle ended up releasing a short video, where their social media influencer was seen praising Rahul for his leadership qualities. He also jokingly observed that Rahul could become the next Defence Minister of India. At that moment, in a light-hearted tone, Rahul also quipped, “Tu bhi majak udayega strike rate ka yaar? (You are also making fun of the strike rate.)”

On one hand, it was heartening to note that Rahul had taken the criticism surrounding his modest strike rate in the right spirit. But it is also true that the LSG skipper has had an issue or two with his strike rate in the shortest format, which in turn could also lead to his exclusion from the Indian side for the forthcoming ICC T20 World Cup to be hosted by the West Indies and the USA.

On a night where yellow jerseys clearly outnumbered the blue ones at the franchise’s homeground, Rahul didn’t exactly silence his critics. However,  he found a better tempo to his innings, and his  53-ball 82 was instrumental in helping his side get back to winning ways. 

The gist of Rahul’s problem is he takes a few more overs to press the booster button. Ideally, the focus of any opener should be to maximise the Powerplay overs. Against Chennai Super Kings, he made a better fist of that challenge: Aggregating 36 off 22 balls and at a strike rate of more than 160. 

If you glance through his 20 plus scores for the current IPL season, this was only the second time that Rahul had accumulated his runs at a strike rate of more than 150. The framework for Rahul’s improved strike rate was his brisk start in the Powerplay overs. In a nutshell, it allowed him to play with a sense of freedom in the middle overs while chasing down a target.

Even during the middle phase, Rahul’s game has been riddled with faultlines. On occasions, he has a tendency to inexplicably slow down after making a fine start. From that perspective, the LSG camp would be glad that Rahul could maintain the tempo for most part of his innings. “I have been trying to assess the situation. It came off today. I knew the CSK spinners would put the pressure on. I picked my bowlers and it came of,” Rahul said at the presentation ceremony.

In the final analysis, Rahul’s effort perhaps won’t be enough for him to secure a berth in the India squad for the T20 World Cup. But it could serve as a foundation stone for Rahul to restructure his batting manual for the rest of LSG’s IPL 2024 campaign.