In the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League in the UAE, the Punjab Kings skipper scored 670 runs in 14 matches, which included a century and five half-centuries. It earned him the Orange cap for the highest run-getter.
The same batsman has managed a solitary run in three matches in the T20 series against England. That one run came in the opening fixture and just when one thought he couldn’t fare worse he produced a couple of noughts in the next two matches.
To say that his current form has come under scrutiny is perhaps an understatement, especially with India firming up the team for the T20 World Cup at home later this year.
The rustiness can be partially attributed to the fact that Rahul has not played competitive cricket since December last year and was benched for the Test series against England. The lack of match time has shown in his timing and selection of shots in the ongoing series.
Hard times may have befallen Rahul, but he can take heart from the fact that he has the backing of pastmasters and his team, skipper Virat Kohli in particular.
After India’s loss to England on Tuesday, Kohli came out in support of the Karnataka batsman, stressing on the numbers he has piled over the years.
“I was going through a lean patch two games ago. These things turn around very quickly. He’s been a champion player for us. If you look at his numbers in the last 2-3 years, they’re probably better than anyone else in T20 cricket,” said Kohli.
Emphasising that the team’s faith in Rahul is unbroken, Kohli added, “He’ll continue to be one of our main batsmen along with Rohit at the top of the order, so we don’t have any concerns there. We know once he starts playing positively and a few shots come off, then it’s a matter of 5-6 balls in this format and suddenly you’re back into that zone.”
Rahul exhibited that zone in the IPL, when he settled down in quick time after a prolonged pandemic-induced break.
Having averaged a little under 41 in 48 T20 appearances for the country, Rahul also found support in batting coach Vikram Rathour.
“In the past one year, KL has been our best batsman in the T20 format, averaging 40-plus and striking at 145. Three failures don’t change the fact that he may be the best in the format. He’s done really well for us and this is the time that the team has to support him and I’m sure he will come out of this lean phase,” stated Rathour.