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Indian T20 League: How a change in his batting approach made KL Rahul a nightmare for bowlers

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KL Rahul is one of the best T20 batsmen in the world right now, of that there is no doubt. His match-winning knock of 132* off just 69 deliveries in the sixth match of the Indian T20 League 2020 season against Bangalore showed exactly why.

The 28-year-old kept batting at a steady scoring rate throughout his innings and absolutely teed off in the last couple of overs. Yes, he was given two lives as Virat Kohli dropped him twice when he reached an individual score of 83 but that doesn't take anything away from how good his knock was. He made full use of those two lives given to him and scored 49 off his last 14 deliveries, which eventually helped him to finish with a massive strike-rate of 191.30.

If the contributions of the other batsmen are taken into account, they tally up to just 63 runs scored at a meagre strike-rate of 121.15. So that sums up how valuable Rahul's knock was and the kind of impact it made to Punjab's chances of winning.

The most fascinating part about Rahul's innings, however, was the way he paced it.

 

PP (1-6) Overs

Middle (7-15) Overs

Death (16-20) Overs

Runs

23

45

62

Balls

18

31

20

Scoring rate (runs per over)

7.66

8.72

18.61

4s

4

6

4

6S

0

1

6

Table: Breakdown of Rahul's approach in each phase of his innings of 132

As visible in the table above, he started off in a very steady manner at a scoring rate of just over 7.5 runs per over and then kept accelerating gradually. He scored at almost 9 runs per over in the middle overs, which is actually very good, and more so considering that his partners in that phase -- Nicholas Pooran and Glenn Maxwell -- scored at a combined scoring rate of just 5.46 runs per over. While they struggled from one end, Rahul ensured that there is no loss in intensity from his end and he just kept pressing on the pedal until he went completely berserk in the final two overs.

In fact, this kind of batting approach from Rahul is exactly what makes him a nightmare for bowlers. When he first joined Punjab in 2018, he used to be a Powerplay beast.

Year

PP(1-6) Overs

Middle (7-15) Overs

Death (16-20) Overs

RpO

9.45

7.72

15.14

Balls faced

231

139

46

Table: Rahul's scoring rate across different phases throughout Indian T20 League 2018

As the table above shows, 55.5% of the total 416 deliveries Rahul faced in Indian T20 League 2018 were in the Powerplay phase whereas 33.4% were in middle-overs and the remaining 11.1% in the death overs. Moreover, his Powerplay scoring rate was excellent too.

Even though he used to get Punjab off to flying starts, there was a significant deceleration in the middle overs. This was the phase he mostly used to get dismissed in. Rahul carried just three out of his 14 innings to the death overs in 2018. Even though he faced only a few deliveries at the death, the kind of damage he did is completely visible.

 

PP(1-6) Overs

Middle (7-15) Overs

Death (16-20) Overs

RpO

7.25

8.32

9.84

Balls faced

192

168

78

Table: Rahul's scoring rate across different phases throughout Indian T20 League 2019

However, there was a considerable change in his batting approach in 2019. Rahul toned his game down significantly in the Powerplay as he scored at a run-rate of 7.25 RPO in that phase last year. Yes, he had gone through a rough patch of form prior to the Indian T20 League last year and that made him start off carefully. But it also had to do a lot with the unstable Punjab middle-order. It became necessary for Rahul to bat throughout the innings.

As a result of his changed approach, Rahul faced a lot more deliveries in the middle and death overs in 2019 as compared to 2018. Moreover, he had carried six of his innings to the death overs this time, which was double of the number of times he did that in 2018.

And it seems like he is following the same approach this year as well, as he has started off slowly in the powerplays in both of his outings so far. Although he got dismissed early in his first outing, we saw how he accelerated gradually in the last game. In fact, it is this gradual acceleration that is making Rahul a nightmare for the bowlers. Bowling teams like to control the game in the middle-overs but Rahul just doesn't let that happen.

Feature image courtesy: Twitter.com/Punjab

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