CHANDIGARH: KL Rahul ended the previous edition of the IPL as the highest run-getter with 670 runs in 14 matches. But the talking point of the Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) skipper was his strike rate of 129.35. From being an aggressive opener, KL switched to an anchor’s role. His lack of intent in the Powerplay may have cost his team a playoff spot as they lost a couple of close matches from winning positions.
Rahul had defended his changed approach, saying, “Strike rates are very, very overrated.” But Punjab Kings batting coach Wasim Jaffer with TOI, “KL batted a little timidly last season. He probably batted deeper because there was not much batting after No. 5, and Glenn Maxwell was not firing. He took that responsibility on himself to try and stay at the crease and get the job done. This time around, everyone will see an aggressive KL Rahul for sure.”
Rahul is a three-dimensional player for his franchise. He is the captain, the opener and the wicketkeeper. After a horrible T20I series, Rahul’s return to form in the ODIs against England augurs well for Punjab Kings.
“It can happen to any player. The more games he played, the better he became. Yes, he had a poor T20 series, but it did not make him a bad batsman. He has scored centuries in all three formats and knows his game better than anyone else. In the ODIs, he showed why he is such a special player,” said Jaffer.
On paper, Punjab Kings again have a promising squad and are looking one of the strong contenders for a spot in the playoffs. The problem with the Mohali-based franchise over the years has been consistency. “This is a much more balanced side than last year. We lacked bowlers who can back Mohammed Shami. In Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith, we have got two pacers who can bowl quick,” said Jaffer.
Jaffer, however, refused to answer the question on the logic of spending millions on two overseas pacers who won’t be playing all the matches. In hindsight, an additional Indian pacer in the form of Umesh Yadav would have been a wiser option. He said: “I am not the right guy to answer this. But we do have a talented pool of Indian pacers in the form of Arshdeep Singh, Ishan Porel and Darshan Nalkande.”
Punjab are a top-heavy side, and they have missed someone at No. 5, 6, or 7, who can up the ante in the last four or five overs. They invested heavily in Maxwell in the previous season, but the Australian failed to hit a single six in his 13 outings. It was one of the reasons they struggled to close out matches.
“Shahrukh Khan is someone we are looking at as a finisher this time around,” Jaffer said.