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KL Rahul: Making a statement without flashiness

KL Rahul has crossed the 300-run mark in IPL 2019

Mumbai, April 11: Steve Jobs, the iconic entrepreneur, had once said getting fired from the Apple in his initial years with the company was the best thing ever happened to him. Jobs wrote that the setback helped him enter the most creative phase of his life. KL Rahul would instantly find oneness with that story for he too walked through that space of hurt, ridicule and loneliness.

Rahul's remarks on the Koffee With Karan show had pushed him to temporary exile from the Indian team, giving him the image of a spoilt child with no values. It might have been tough to deal with for a 26-year-old cricketer who is still in the process of finding his own spot within the team, within the sport and, perhaps, himself. Pending the legal formalities, Rahul made a return to Team India in the two-match T20I series against Australia and is currently playing in the IPL 2019 for Kings XI Punjab.

But the tremors from that TV show have not subsided and Rahul along with Hardik Pandya recently deposed before the BCCI Ombudsman. In fact, he is not completely out of the complex legal net. But Rahul has to feign ignorance off all those off-field happenings. He needs to focus on the task at hand, opening for Kings XI.

It's a trial that lesser beings can easily wither under. But the turmoil seemed to have steeled Rahul. While making a hundred, his maiden in the IPL, against the Mumbai Indians on Wednesday (April 11), he became the second batsman after David Warner to cross the 300-run mark in the IPL 2019. He now has 314 runs from seven games at 79.25 and the strike-rate too is a healthy 131.53.

The entire philosophy of his batting too seemed to have changed this year. In 2018, Rahul was busy destroying the bowlers. But this time, he is trying to occupy the crease as long as he can and there has been no brazen stroke play. Of course, the more familiar Rahul surfaces at times. At the Wankhede, he dismantled Hardik with three sixes in the 19th over and a hook stood out for its audacity and perfection.

But occasionally, Rahul seemed to be immersing himself a little too deep in the new method. While Chris Gayle was blazing away at the other end, Rahul, quite understandably, played the more passive role reaching his fifty in 41 balls at the Wankhede.

The dismissal of Gayle did not brought a big shift in his approach. Between the 13th and 17th over, Kings XI made just 30 runs with Rahul facing 14 balls for 16 runs. The Punjab side let the advantage of an opening stand of 116 in 12.5 overs slip. In the end, Kings XI might have ended up around 20 short of where they could have been.

Yes, T20 is not a format where you can seek self-gratification and the more cynical among us can say that Rahul has his eyes fixed on the spot in the Indian team for the ICC World Cup 2019 since the selectors are due to announce the final 15 members on April 15. Hence, he could be merely looking for runs against his name. A bit preposterous argument, isn't it?

Rahul himself was aware of the slow couching in the middle of the innings. "Honestly, I thought with the way Chris and I started that we would get to 200 but we lost our way a little in the middle. For the first six overs, the plan is simple, that both of us have to look to play cricketing shots and after six it's generally Chris who takes off and I look to take it deep. After Chris and Davey got out, I delayed going after the bowling, so the last three had to be big. It wasn't easy to go after the spinners because the grip," said Rahul.

But for someone who had gone through bleaker days in the not too distant past, Rahul can find a meeting point between his and team's success.

 
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Story first published: Thursday, April 11, 2019, 15:32 [IST]
Other articles published on Apr 11, 2019
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