Welcome back, KL Rahul

Talent is a word that comes by default with KL Rahul, and it’s his talent helping him flourish despite batting at an unfavourable position.
KL Rahul is a terrific batter.?width=963&height=541&resizemode=4
The deck wasn’t as easy to bat for the new batters, but Rahul was pristine, as he always is when in flow.

Whenever KL Rahul bats, everyone is sceptical about which version of Rahul would turn up. While he has barely put a foot wrong in this format, his intent in the shortest version has sowed doubts in viewers’ minds. And when Rahul came to bat after more than four months of hiatus against Pakistan, those doubts were bound to resurface.

However, KL Rahul not only rinsed off those qualms but also went on to play his finest knock in ODIs. It’s not that Rahul hasn’t played quicker or better before, but the stage and time make this knock remarkable. An innings that had class written all over it.

When KL arrived at the crease, India had lost two quick wickets after a brisk start from Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, and the tables could have turned in no time had Pakistan snared a few more quickly. But Rahul not only preserved his wicket, he also put the attack back on Pakistani bowlers.

KL Rahul’s intent has always been a concern, but his positive approach was refreshing from scratch and relieving for everyone. The deck wasn’t as easy to bat for the new batters, but Rahul was pristine, as he always is when in flow. His maiden boundary off Shaheen Shah Afridi indicated Rahul's mood and things to follow.

Shaheen bowled a short delivery after a few fuller-length ones, and Rahul quickly got on top of it to dispatch over mid-wicket for a four. From this point, everything seemed to be hitting the meaty part of the willow, and even a rain break that took away an entire day couldn’t break the flow.

Rahul’s way of countering Naseem’s first spell on the reserve day depicted he was up for the challenge. There were a few peaches in the short 2-over spell, but the batter quickly got over it and batted in his usual self.

KL Rahul was proactive in maximising the overs of Iftikhar Ahmed, who had to cover up for the absence of Pakistan’s ace speedster, Haris Rauf. It’s not that Rahul didn’t treat others similarly, but he made sure to take that extra risk on this weak link. Virat Kohli also helped him significantly to accomplish the job.

KL Rahul’s innings progression was a beauty - ideal for a middle-order batter in the 50-over format. If we divide his knock into 20-ball blocks, several things get cleared. It shows how well Rahul paced this knock, and he is a quintessential middle-order bat. Despite hot and humid conditions and coming off surgery, Rahul ran hard between the wickets and timed those boundaries perfectly.

His strike rate during that 21-40 ball phase shrunk due to a high-class Naseem spell early on, but Rahul covered that swiftly to take India to a massive total. He has different gears for different situations, but to bat with a control of 86% after coming from such a long hiatus speaks his calibre.

Rahul was watchful and delayed his shots as late as possible against the spinners, and when he used his feet, Rahul made sure to go with full extension. Meanwhile, Rahul stood still to crunch the pace bowlers with his timing, and his placement was better than any other batter in the rubber. He had a strike rate of 105.26 and hit eight boundaries against the pacers while striking at 104.08 and hitting as many as six boundaries off the slow bowlers in this encounter.

His acceleration after settling in is not surprising by any means. Rahul always had this expertise and did it consistently for India before the injury in the IPL. He was among the best middle-order batters in the ODIs, which is not an exaggeration. The numbers speak for themselves.

While batting in the middle-order, KL Rahul has 1182 runs at a fantastic average of 51.39 and struck at 94.40 in 30 ODI innings. The 31-year-old has also amassed seven fifties and three half-centuries. Few can boast such a tremendous record, and certainly not the batters initially playing as an opener.

Batting in the middle order requires greater adaptability and more gears, as the situation is different in every game. It’s not surprising that KL Rahul has aced in this role. If anyone could have done it, it was him only.

Talent is a word that comes by default with KL Rahul, and it’s his talent helping him flourish despite batting at an unfavourable position. His talent enabled Rahul to get into his groove five minutes before the toss. He wasn’t in the XI, but Shreyas Iyer complained about a back spasm in the end moments, and India had to shuffle the positions.

It goes without saying that KL Rahul is vital in the middle order for India’s chances in the World Cup. This knock must have mitigated all the frustration the rain created in the past two days. Welcome back, KL Rahul.

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