In pursuit of a target of 153, KL Rahul anchored Kings XI Punjab’s chase with an unbeaten 84 and led his team to a six-wicket win over the Rajasthan Royals in Indore. The opener had given his team some explosive starts and set up matches in the first half of VIVO IPL 2018, but against RR he guided his team to victory with a well-paced knock.
Discussing his innings and the mindset for the chase, Rahul said, “I try to keep the same focus in every match that I go out to bat. I want to get as many runs as I can in the powerplay. (However,) I think I haven’t converted those starts into big runs for the team; as an opening batsman that’s what is crucial. If you get off to a good start, even if you get the run rate down a bit in the middle overs, if you are set till the end you can do the most damage. That’s what I learnt from the first leg (of the tournament) before we broke off for eight days.”
“Those were the things I was thinking about sitting back at home. I wanted to come here with a fresher approach and try to win as many games as I can. (I wanted to) try to bat deep in the innings and that was the plan and I am very happy that it paid off today,” he explained while speaking about his approach.
Rahul has been tasked with the job of donning the gloves for KXIP, and the opener admitted that wicket-keeping had also helped his batting.. “I enjoy wicket-keeping in the shorter format. If it is in the longer format, then ‘keeping for a longer time and then going out to bat as soon as the innings is finished is little hard on the body. I have always enjoyed wicket-keeping in T20s. I think it gives me a good view of what the wicket is doing, like in the second innings today, I knew how the wicket was playing and what were the right shots to play on this wicket even before I went out to bat. So that helps.”
Speaking about his role behind the stumps further, Rahul added, “Standing behind I know exactly how to set the field and (Ravichandran) Ashwin has given me that freedom to set the fielders accordingly. So I am enjoying both the roles.”
Rahul expressed delight at the performance of the bowlers, and said to Andrew Tye in a post-match chat, “As a bowling unit we are learning with each game and I am very happy with the way our bowlers have been brave, even though in a couple of games we have gone for runs. It is T20, and you know better than me that in T20 there will be a couple of games where the bowlers will go for big runs. But the way we have come back after every game is something that I am really happy standing behind the stumps.”
The young Mujeeb ur Rahman had claimed three for 27 to be KXIP’s most successful bowler in the match, but Tye contributed by claiming the key wickets of Sanju Samson and Tripathi. Trying to get an insight into the bowler’s approach to picking up wickets in T20s, Rahul asked the bowler, “Standing behind the stumps I am thinking if I ever have to face you it would be so difficult. So what are you thinking as a bowler running in?” In reply to his teammate’s query, Tye explained, “I have certain plans for certain stages of the game; it all depends on the wicket as well, see how it goes couple of balls into the spell. You have got to be adaptable. I have never got a set position; I’ve bowled at different times (and situations in the game). So I just try and focus on it…make up my mind what I am going to bowl at the top of my mark and just go with it. There is no set plan; I be as random as I can because, if you get too predictable in T20 cricket that’s where things can go a bit pear-shaped.”
Speaking about the team’s bowling unit, Tye added, “Our bowling squad has done a wonderful job for us the this IPL so far; sure we have lost a little bit at times, but as a whole unit we have got Axar (Patel), Ash (Ravichandran Ashwin), Mujeeb (ur Rahman), Ankit (Rajpoot), (Barinder) Sran and myself and even Mohit (Sharma) earlier in the competition. All have done a wonderful job, Stoinis as well. Our whole mantra is to try and take wickets early, restrict teams through the middle and then really hammer it home at the end. (Although) it hasn’t always gone well but overall it is good.”
While saying that Rajpoot is one of the Indian talents that he looks forward to working with, Tye said, “I like the look of Ankit; he has got some good skills. I just try and keep reminding him to bowl his best ball at that stage of the game. We have seen earlier in the tournament that when he bowls upfront it swings and he takes wickets and then when he bowls at the death, he’s just got to figure that out. I will try and help him as best as I can at that in the next couple of games.”
With 12 points from nine matches under the belt, KXIP would be looking to carry the momentum into the business end of the tournament and make it to the playoffs. Reflecting on the win, Rahul said, “This was a very important game for Kings XI. The win will obviously do a world of good for us, as a batting group we will start believing the wicket and can chase down any target. The bowling group has been very consistent and they have been doing the job. Looking forward to playing Rajasthan Royals again and it should be a great contest.”