One of the most pleasing sights in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 was KL Rahul’s strokeplay. The Karnataka batsman showed that one doesn’t need to alter his/her technique to score consistently in T20s.
Picked by Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) at this year’s IPL auction for Rs 11 crore, Rahul was on the money from the word go, smashing the fastest fifty in the tournament’s history – off just 14 balls against Delhi Daredevils. While his team couldn’t qualify for the play-offs, the 26-year-old had a great season personally, finishing with 659 runs at a strike-rate of 158.41, including six half-centuries.
As a result, he has been named in India’s limited-overs squads for their tour of England, starting next month. With India’s middle-order woes getting worse, Rahul hopes a successful IPL stint will help him cement his place in the side and he is even ready to shoulder the responsibility of a finisher.
“I have always believed that one has to play according to the situation in cricket. Especially in the T-20 format where every ball is an event. The game changes with every ball and one needs to adjust his game according to what the team needs. Whether it’s a single, four or a six. Whatever cricket I played for India in the last 2-3 years, I used that experience in this IPL (2018) and played with a clear mind,” Rahul, who has played 10 ODIs, said in a media interaction in Mohali.
“Sometimes, the best performances come when the mind is calm. That’s what I did in IPL. My focus was that I should be the person to finish the game for the team. As a player, you want to face such kind of situations where you are able to finish the task for the team. And such situations can even come in a World Cup semi-final or final. So, this IPL taught me a lot and helped my game mentally as well,” he added.
Since the 2015 World Cup, India have tried quite a few players at No. 4 but none have got a consistent run and that has put extra pressure on the top-order. While Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and skipper Virat Kohli have stepped up as and when required, the 4, 5 and 6 have hardly contributed to the team’s cause. After an average showing against South Africa, Ajinkya Rahane finds himself out of the ODI side. Manish Pandey needs clarity over his role while Shreyas Iyer is still new in the frame.
With MS Dhoni showing glimpses of his old self in this year’s IPL and Rahul returning to the ODI fold after being dropped last year, India will hope their middle-order conundrum gets solved, with the World Cup just 12 months away.
Playing ODIs before Tests advantage
Rahul also said that playing the limited-overs series against England before the Tests will serve as a big gain to India. “I have never played in England before and I have only watched the past matches on TV. If you play in India, you know the home conditions well but you also want to be challenged. And, if you can perform well in England and Australia, it will make you more experienced. We will be playing the T-20 and ODI series before the Test series and it will help us acclimatise to the conditions first. When my first Test hundred came in Sydney in 2014, I remember my name being placed on the honours board. If I can hit a century at Lord’s, it will be a moment to remember for me.”