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IPL 2021: Over Dependence On KL Rahul Is Adversely Affecting The Fortunes of Punjab Kings

In what was yet another batting collapse – their second in their first four matches in the IPL, the Punjab Kings were bowled out before the completion of their 20 overs and routed for 120 by an inspired bowling unit of the Sunrisers Hyderabad in Chennai. The common connection in the two hopeless batting displays by Punjab Kings was the early dismissal of their captain and biggest run-getter – KL Rahul.

Rahul was sent packing for 4 in the 4th over by Bhuvneshwar Kumar today in Chennai. Punjab Kings struggled to bat their allotted 20 overs and were skittled for a paltry 120 in 19.4 overs. The story was no different against the Chennai Super Kings at the Wankhede where Rahul’s early run out for 5 had again triggered a collapse of the top and middle order resulting in the team being restricted to a poor 106 for 8 in their 20 overs.

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The dramatic failure of the top and middle order of the Punjab Kings after the early exit of their skipper is having a double negative effect on the team’s fortunes. Firstly, it highlights the over-dependence of the other batsmen on the starts provided by Rahul over the last three editions in the IPL. He has been the highest run-getter in the IPL (combined) from IPL 2018 to IPL 2020 top-scoring for his franchise in all three seasons.

When Rahul is falling early in the powerplay, invariably the tendency and the probability of the other top and middle order to succumb to the opposition bowing rises dramatically with the team folding up for mediocre and sub-par totals. This was a pattern witnessed in the last season in the UAE too. Rahul was bundled for 17 against the Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi – Punjab Kings ended with 143 for 8 chasing 191 in Abu Dhabi. He exited for 11 against the Sunrisers as Punjab Kings were bowled out for 132 receiving a 69-run hammering in Dubai.

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Secondly, it is forcing Rahul to play the role of the anchor at a lower strike rate which again is affecting the team adversely – the Punjab Kings ended up on the losing side despite Rahul scoring heavily but at a low strike rate in a number of matches in IPL 2019 and 2020.

Rahul was at his destructive best in IPL 2018 aggregating 659 runs in 14 innings at a strike rate of 158.41. He assumed the role of an accumulator for the most part of the next two seasons – striking at a rate of 135.38 in 2019 and 129.34 in 2020. Very seldom did he unleash his A-game of being the aggressor at the top of the order. The trend was repeated against the Capitals in Mumbai this season. Rahul scored 61 but took 51 deliveries and his strike rate of 119.6 meant that Punjab Kings posted 195 for 4 which was 20 runs short than the match-winning total they needed on that wicket against the batting might of the opposition.

Chris Gayle has managed to score just 76 runs in 4 innings this season at a poor strike rate of 118.75. Mayank Agarwal recorded a fifty but failed in the other three matches in the competition. Nicholas Pooran has been a disaster in the middle order with an aggregate of just 9 runs in 4 innings! The top and middle order has to provide more stability and come up with substantial performances if they want to extract the maximum potential of their captain with the bat.

Rahul is at his dangerous best when he attacks the bowling up-front. It is the most productive strategy for him and for the team. But for Rahul-the aggressor to showcase his A-game at the top of the order, the supporting cast have to play their role and give him the confidence and assurance to go after the bowling.

Time for the other Punjab Kings’ batsmen to up their game for the team and their captain.

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