Newly appointed Kings XI Punjab coach Anil Kumble believes that elevation to captaincy will help K L Rahul “grow in stature” and prove beneficial to his development not just in T20 cricket but other formats as well. With R Ashwin, who led the franchise over the last couple of seasons having been traded to the Delhi Capitals, KXIP have appointed 27-year old Rahul as their captain for the 2020 season.
Rahul, who has been in eye-catching form in recent weeks in white ball cricket, has been KXIP’s standout performer with the bat in the last couple of seasons, making 659 runs in 2018 at an average of 54.91 and 593 runs in 2019 at an average of 53.90. Rahul has also kept wickets though Kumble said the decision on whether he will continue in that role now that he has been made captain will be taken closer to the start of the season.
“We took a decision of elevating KL Rahul because I feel that an Indian captain is essential to build a franchise around a player and for me KL Rahul determines that,” Kumble told CricketNext. “In the last two years that he has been a part of Kings XI, he has been the best performer for Kings XI and he commands the respect from the other players and he is the best player for us in this format.
“I felt not just from a Kings XI perspective but from KL Rahul’s individual growth as well, this is the right time for him to take up this leadership position because I feel that this role is going to help him grow as a person, grow in stature, as a leader and it’ll also help him understand his game not just in this format but also help him understand from the other formats as well.
“We know the ability and quality of KL Rahul and I’d like to see him play for India in all the three formats and I strongly believe that with this new role that we have given to KL Rahul, it’ll only help him grow as a player, as a person and it’ll only help him in his cricket.
“Some of the interactions that I have had with the complexion of the team that we wanted to put together in this auction, his thoughts are very clear and he is very clear to what he wants and how he wants to utilise the particular player in the role he defines. So in that sense, I see him someone who understands the game very well.
“Of course it helps him being behind the stumps. We are still not sure whether he will be donning the gloves or is it going to be Nicolas Pooran we will decide that closer to the IPL. But having said that, the other thing that certainly helps him is a few of his teammates are around him. Whether it is Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, or K Gowtham who he has played most of his cricket at the junior level, also for Karnataka.
“For the last two years he has been with Kings XI players. So he is well respected, he understands the game really well. And I also believed that this was the right time for us to hand over the mantle to KL, having known him for all these years in his growing up at the Karnataka junior cricket and also in Ranji Trophy, he has matured and this is the right time for him to takeover and I am confident with the kind of support we have put together he will be able to deliver on the field.”
With a purse of Rs. 42.70 crores available at the auction, the most of any franchise, KXIP shored up their squad by adding nine players. Among them were a couple of high profile names that attracted big price tags - Australia’s Glenn Maxwell was purchased for Rs. 10.75 crores and West Indies’ Sheldon Cottrell cost the franchise Rs. 8.50 crores.
While Maxwell has a reputation as a destructive player, especially in the T20 format, his IPL record doesn’t make for as impressive reading, with 1397 runs in 69 appearances at an average of under 23. Cottrell has stock has been on the rise in recent months as a new ball bowler for the West Indies and Kumble insisted that the decision to bid aggressively for both players was a well-considered one.
“We were looking for someone in the middle order to be really explosive, to be destructive & that’s why we went for Glenn Maxwell,” Kumble explained. “Maxwell has performed for Kings XI in the past and let’s remember that it’s the World Cup year. So with the World Cup in October, with IPL in April, we certainly believe that we can look forward to a Maxwell special.
“I have known him much before he made his debut for Australia. So that’s the comfort that I have with someone like Glenn Maxwell, I have worked with him when I was with the Mumbai Indians. So yes, having that knowledge of Maxwell prior to this experience. The other advantage with Maxwell is that he is a fantastic fielder and he also can give you a couple of overs with his off-spin.
“So, overall he is a fantastic T20 package for us & that’s the reason we wanted someone like Maxwell because I believe that in T20 cricket, you need to give all options, more than 5 options in the bowling department for the captain to choose.
“We know that Cottrell doesn’t shirk away from having a competition with the opposition, he is in the batsman’s face all the time. he has different variations and we were looking for a left-armer with that kind of ability and that’s why we chose him. He’s someone who can bowl anywhere in the 20 overs & that’s the ability we were looking for. I think with him coming into the squad it gives us a balance with someone like Md. Shami, a senior Indian fast bowler in the squad.
“So, it’s not just on the field that he brings that quality but off the field as well. I mean with his salute, which is now really famous. So we hope to see, at least from a Kings XI perspective, we want to see a lot more salutes every game in this IPL.”