IPL 2021: KL Rahul – The IPL Run Machine Continues To Pile On For Punjab Kings
There is something about the Indian Premier League and the Punjab Kings jersey that inspires KL Rahul to deliver his best and raise his game to a different level. In yet another phenomenal display with the bat, the stylish opener hammered a magnificent 91 off just 50 deliveries to power his franchise to the highest first innings’ score so far in IPL 2021 against the Rajasthan Royals in Chennai.
Rahul played himself in scoring 7 off as many deliveries when he started. He then switched to gear 2 scoring 25 off 15 balls at a strike rate of 166.67 in his 67-run stand for the second-wicket with Chris Gayle. But the best was yet to come. The match-defining partnership came with Deepak Hooda as the pair put together 105 off just 47 deliveries matching each other shot for shot. Rahul was in top gear and scored 40 off 19 deliveries at a strike rate of 210.53 in the partnership.
Courtesy his efforts with Hooda, Punjab Kings blasted 132 in the second half of their innings. Rahul smashed a splendid 91 off just 50 deliveries. Apart from his timing and breathtaking stokeplay, what stood out was the manner in which Rahul had built his innings. He got his eye in and then raised the tempo in phases. It was not the anchor Rahul largely of 2019 and 2020 on display at the Chepauk today but the aggressor Rahul of 2018 who wanted to dominate and annihilate the opposition attack.
From 37 off his first 25 deliveries at a strike rate of 148, Rahul had accelerated brilliantly and scored 54 off the next 25 deliveries he faced at a rate of 216. During the course of his match-defining knock, Rahul became the second batsman after Shaun Marsh to reach the milestone of 2000 IPL runs for Punjab Kings. He also surpassed David Miller to become the second-highest scorer for the franchise in the IPL.
Rahul has a stunning record for Punjab Kings. Since 2018, he has amassed 2013 runs for the franchise in just 43 innings at an average of 55.91 and strike rate of 141.56 including two hundreds and 18 fifties – such phenomenal consistency in getting the big scores at a high rate has seldom been witnessed in the league’s history. Rahul aggregated 670 runs in 14 innings at an average of 55.83 and strike rate of 129.34 in IPL 2020 ending as the highest run-getter of the season. His exploits included one hundred and 5 fifties. Rahul topped the run-charts despite his side Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings) not making the playoffs – that is how good and consistent he was in the tournament.
He was the second-highest scorer in IPL 2019 and the third-highest in IPL 2018. No one has scored more runs combined than Rahul in the last three seasons of the IPL. He has been the constant for Punjab Kings at the top of the order. Although he hammered the record 132 off just 69 deliveries against the Challengers in Dubai last year, Rahul largely played the role of an anchor and accumulator in 2020 and 2019 playing within himself in a number of matches – his season strike rate of 129.34 and 135.38 an indicator of the role he was playing at the top of the order for Punjab Kings.
It was in 2018 where he was at his destructive best blasting 659 runs at a strike rate of 158.41. Rahul’s knock today in Chennai was reminiscent of his form and aura in 2018. If Rahul – the aggressor continues in this vein then it might well turn out to be THE YEAR for his franchise – the Punjab Kings!