Is KL Rahul a bigger T20 beast than the Universe Boss?
Both are ex-Bangalore players. Both are now at Punjab. Both are openers. Both have the same number of T20 International tons (wait, what?).
But one is the Universe Boss, while the other is a cheesy three-letter cliché name right from the Bollywood telephone directory. Surely the similarities end there?
Yes, it does. But not in the manner that you expect.
Chris Gayle's career average in T20Is is 32.54. Good for an opener. His strike rate is 142.84.
But KL Rahul averages a blistering 45.65, the best by any opener with minimum 1000 runs in the history of T20Is, and strikes at a rate of 146.1.
At first glance, it is a comparison between chalk and cheese. Rahul is all timing and elegance. Gayle is raw, brute power and aggression. Yet, in a game where the role of an opener is all about maximising the first six overs when field restrictions are on, effectiveness is more important than finesse.
In this respect, the only fair criteria separating the two has to be their record. Now, Gayle has some incredible T20 records including the highest individual score in T20 history. His century count is outstanding and the fear he instils in bowlers even more terrifying.
But over the last three years or so, Rahul has risen in T20 cricket incredibly. Since 2017, Rahul averages 51.39 as an opener in all T20s. His strike rate has shot up to nearly 150. He hits a boundary every fifth ball he faces and keeps the scoreboard ticking, a fact emphasised by his runs-per-non-boundary balls of 0.69.
On the other hand, Gayle's stocks have fallen, if only a bit. His strike-rate has gone below 140. His average sits at 31. He still has four hundreds in these three years, an area where Rahul has a bit of catching up to do.
But do hundreds define T20 openers? It ideally shouldn't, and Rahul's 25 half-centuries and uber-impressive strike-rate more than makes up for an ego-boosting addition to the count of centuries.
Gayle also hogs strike a lot and fails to give the non-striker much of a role, as evident from a runs-per-non-boundary value of 0.43, which is terrible by modern T20 standards.
Going by these, it's pretty evident that Rahul is well on top of Gayle at the moment in T20s. The Universe Boss had his time bossing the world, but it's perhaps time for KLR to trend in the shortest format of the game.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Punit Paranjpe / Sajjad Hussain
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