There’s a buzz in the IPL circuit that KL Rahul is Chennai Super Kings’ prime target to take over from captain MS Dhoni next season.
It’s still some way off before we know whether it will come true, but on a blazing, hot Thursday afternoon in Dubai, Rahul showed why he will be one of the most sought-after players in next year’s IPL.
The Punjab Kings captain came up with probably the best innings of this edition of the tournament to help his team end on a respectable note. With six wins and a net run rate of -0.001, it might not be enough to take his team through to the playoffs, but it was the sheer beauty of Rahul’s 98 not out off 42 balls that took one’s breath away.
CSK, despite the big loss, stay in second spot. But Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli will be the one feeling the pinch. Courtesy the Rahul effort, all his team would have needed was a win in their last game to finish in the top-two had they had managed to cross the line against SRH on Wednesday. It was not to be.
Keeping the permutations aside, it was just about sitting back and enjoying Rahul’s batting in Dubai. A chase of 135 is not a cakewalk against CSK but Rahul seemed to have gone into this game with nothing to lose. He just looked to pick the length and hit through the line against all the CSK bowlers, who have been so effective in the tournament so far. The Bangalore man also has the gift of timing and powerful wrists that helped him send the ball over the fence time and time again to set up the six-wicket win in 13 overs.
The beauty of Rahul’s effort was that there was no brutality about it. He just decided to take the game away from CSK in the Powerplay overs with some easy, elegant hitting over the top. While anything pitched up went over the bowler’s head, Rahul was equally proficient on the back-foot against the short balls. And even against Dwayne Bravo’s slower yorkers, the right-hander found ways of scoring, making fantastic use of his wrists and playing it over fine leg. “The numbers guys told me that winning the game within 14 overs gives us the best chance to qualify and I just tried to do that,” Rahul said at the end of the match.
India’s campaign in the T20 World Cup starts in 17 days’ time and Rahul said that he will look to keep this form going. “I keep telling myself that I am not a power player. It’s about keeping my shape and timing the ball…I will look to take good care of this bat (looking ahead to the T20 World Cup), the right-hander said.
CSK, on the other hand, have suddenly hit a rough patch, losing three in a row ahead of the playoffs. But skipper Dhoni would like to believe that when India’s best GenNext batter bats like that, there’s not much one can do about it.