Rahul scored an aggregate of 593 runs in 14 innings at an average of 53.9 and strike rate of 135.38 in the tournament. His exploits included one hundred and 6 fifties.
At the end of the league stage, he is the second-highest run scorer this season (after David Warner).
It is the second year running that Rahul has scored in excess of 550 runs in an IPL season. He was the third-highest scorer in 2018 with 659 runs in 14 innings at an average of 54.91 and strike rate of 158.41.
Rahul came out all guns blazing in Mohali and smashed Deepak Chahar into the stands over deep mid-wicket off the final ball of the very first over. He then got stuck into Harbhajan Singh (who has been very miserly in the tournament) and lofted him for a six over extra cover before sending him over long-on off successive deliveries.
A drive followed by a pull, a heave over long on, an inside out six over extra cover and finally a lofted drive over long on – 4,4,4,6,6 – Rahul tore into Harbhajan and blasted him for 24 off the fourth over of the innings. He raced to his 50 in just 19 deliveries – making it the third-fastest fifty of the season.
KKR had raced to 68 in the powerplay.
Although Rahul became a little more circumspect when the field spread, the damage had already been done.
He added 108 in just 10.3 overs with Chris Gayle before being dismissed for 71 off just 36 deliveries at a strike rate of 197.22 – a knock which included 7 fours and 5 imperious sixes.
Kings XI went on to win the match by 6 wickets with two overs to spare.
After scoring 52 off the first 19 deliveries he faced at a strike rate of 273.68 he calmed down and scored another 19 runs off 17 deliveries.
After a couple of failures in the first two games of the season – 4 and 1 – Rahul went on to score 71* (57 balls), 15 (11), 55 (47), 71* (53), 100* (64 balls), 18 (15), 52 (47), 12 (9), 42 (27), 79 (56), 2(7) and 71 (36).
KL Rahul plays a shot. (IPL)
Rahul reserved his best for the last. His knock against CSK was by far his best performance of the tournament. He played freely and was the aggressor from the start. He did not anchor the innings which had forced him to be a little subdued throughout the tournament. This is evident from a comparison between his strike rate today and in his other performances in the season. There is a difference of as much as 40.97 runs per hundred balls between his scoring rate between this knock and his second-best on this count – the unbeaten 100 off 64 deliveries against Mumbai Indians.
Overall, Rahul showed maturity and class throughout the season. He displayed great temperament and was circumspect when he was building the innings and then suddenly changed gears when he needed to accelerate to provide the impetus.
He scored 7 fifty-plus scores in the season – in 14 innings – which meant a fifty-plus score every second innings – showcasing how consistent he was.
Kings XI won 4 of the 7 matches when he crossed 50 – an indicator of how dependent they were on his batting.
Rahul’s stupendous form in the IPL augurs well for India ahead of the World Cup which gets underway in England in just over three weeks.
He does not have a great ODI record with just 343 runs in 13 innings at an average of 34.3 and strike rate of 80.89, including just one hundred in his short career where he has been in and out (mostly out).
However he has an excellent T20I record and has been in sublime form in the format since 2018 with 421 runs in just 13 innings at an average of 38.27 and strike rate of 150.89, including one hundred and two fifties
Coupled with his brilliant run in the IPL, Rahul provides a great option for India as a reserve opener or a solid and potentially match-winning batsman at Number 4.
First Published: May 6, 2019, 8:25 AM IST