S. SOORAJ | 2nd October 2021

To call KL Rahul the MVP in this Punjab Kings squad would be stating the obvious to an almost silly extent. As the captain and the opening batsman of this side, all eyes are on him towards making sure that this PBKS side get over the line.

While KL Rahul has been truly splendid for Punjab throughout his stint as skipper, the constant shade thrown on his name is about his slow scoring rate. It is a known fact that despite his abundance of natural talent, KL does take time to settle at the crease.

But the frustration stems from the fact that the world is aware of what happens when the 29-year old is unleashed. And with him taking to the responsibility of becoming captain, it almost seems like he is taming the beast within himself.

Let’s just take a quick glance at the numbers. KL Rahul has a strike rate of 180+ in the last 5 overs in IPL 2021. When the team needs KL to kill, he can still make any bowling attack bleed.

And a question that should be asked more often is why Rahul’s sluggish scoring rate isn’t a bi-product of a shockingly inconsistent middle-order?

Even the world-class likes of Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Dawid Malan, and Aiden Markram have failed to do what’s on the tin, forcing the skip to see out the better part of every PBKS batting display.

It’s safe to say that the Punjab Kings is a one-man team, given the glaring inconsistencies in their batting line-up.

KL Rahul won the toss, chose to field, kept wickets for 20 overs whilst captaining his troops and watching over every move to ensure his side do the business for once. And in the 2nd innings, KL batted his heart out for 19.2 overs.

Rarely do you see a player this involved in a game and the worst part is that if KL Rahul doesn’t bat for most of the innings, the chances of his side getting to a decent total is almost zero, as harsh as this may sound.

When you look at the numbers, it paints quite a picture too.

In the last 12 matches they have played, PBKS have managed to get past the 150-run mark only once without KL Rahul batting for at least more than 10 overs.

And interestingly enough, in that isolated contest where the PBKS didn’t take part, his opening partner and best mate, Mayank Agarwal scored a brilliant 99 to see the side through to a measly 167 runs in 20 overs.

It has to be referred to as measly when one of the batsmen is a run away from a T20 century and yet, the team is far from the 180+ mark as well.

Every time KL Rahul gets out within the first half of the PBKS innings, a collapse is simply inevitable. Apart from Mayank Agarwal, who has been an able backup to his skipper, none of the other batsmen have stepped up for the men in red on a consistent enough basis.

While putting up defendable scores without the former RCB batter has been impossible for the Punjab Kings, chasing has been a tragedy of its own for them as well.

Like we saw in the game against Rajasthan Royals a few days ago, the Punjab Kings middle order lost a game when they strolling towards 8 runs off 12 balls with 8 wickets in hand was the challenge ahead of them.

Calamitous batting of the highest order.

Among the top 3 highest opening partnerships coming in lost run chases, two places have been taken up by the seasoned duo of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. This shows just how feeble of a middle-order Punjab possess.

Even in yesterday’s contest that was well worth staying in and watching the cricket, KL had to save the day once again as the middle-order crumbled again, which is very on-brand at this point.

While the dropping of Shahrukh Khan from the side for the first 3 games since the resumption of the IPL has always been baffling, a fearless 22 off 9 balls proved the initial backlash was never an overreaction.

SRK stood tall against KKR but when it’s time to deliver, do PBKS have enough in the batting department?

The equation is simple- either the supporting cast rise to the task like Mayank and Shahrukh or KL plays at a run-a-ball. There’s a lot on Rahul’s plate anyway and you can’t have your own cake and eat it too.