Anil Kumble: KL Rahul's shackles self-imposed; 'switches on and off for whatever reason'
KL Rahul has gone back in his shell at the top of the order in the ongoing T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia.
Anil Kumble stood clear in his explanation of KL Rahul's persistent struggles in the ongoing T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia, stating the Indian opener "switches on and off" for inexplicable reasons. Kumble said at no stage of his tenure as head of Punjab Kings (PBKS) staff back in the day did he tell Rahul to bat conservatively.
The former India skipper claimed it is Rahul who has tended to dictate his own approach in the middle in the IPL, when his conversation with the player was always to bat in his naturally freeflowing ways from the word go.
Kumble and Rahul were the coach-captain duo for PBKS till the end of the IPL 2021 in an association that ended with the side's disappointing campaign that season and saw an array of question marks being raised on the batter's strike-rate and approach.
Back then, many felt it was Kumble behind KL Rahul sticking to a traditional method of setting his eyes in before exploding. It has been a method put to use for success by another Indian batting stalwart Virat Kohli.
However, since Rahul tended to go overboard in avoiding risks, he left too much ground to be recovered in the end-overs stage, leaving PBKS' unstable middle-order little time to settle in and allowing the opposition in the process to tighten the screws on PBKS.
Kumble has clarified now that he never asked the player to bat that way and it was purely Rahul's own approach to the situation in the middle.
Anil Kumble on curious case of KL Rahul
"In the IPL it was a different conversation. All of us kept saying, look, you are the best player. Just go out and bat normally. From ball one, go hard, do what you are good out," Kumble said on ESPNCricinfo.
"Especially in the powerplay, I don't think any bowler can keep him quiet. But I think when he played franchise cricket, he felt that he needed to bat longer because of the lineup he had and he was captain. You can say what you want from the outside but you can't control what happens on the field."
Kumble made a suggestion that Rahul tends to have mental switches of his own with the bat in hand. He cited the example of the player's final knock in the Punjab jersey in IPL 2021, when he smashed his way to an unbeaten 98 off 42 balls, with PBKS needing to win over Chennai Super Kings (CSK) with a handsome NRR boost. That innings completely belied the KL Rahul that Kumble would've witnessed earlier in the season, one that played completely within himself.
"With the Indian team it is quite different. I think his role is to just go out there and bat. When I was coach, I didn't want that to change, I just wanted him to go and be KL Rahul, dictate terms from ball one. I think he sort of switches on and switches for whatever reason," Kumble said.
"We saw in his last game for Punjab against Chennai where we had to get those runs and have a crack at the net run rate, we saw what he can do. He just smashed everyone and Chennai had some good international bowlers."
"So it is just a matter of Rahul switching on. It is not about any conversation any of us can have, it is just about him feeling that today is when I will start hitting shots or be tentative. We don't know," he added.
In the T20 World Cup as well, KL Rahul has looked all too tentative and nervy in the first two games for India, making scores of 4 off 8 versus Pakistan and 9 off 12 against the Netherlands. This, in direct contrast to the superquick half-century he made in the warm-up game facing hosts Australia - a pattern that vindicates Kumble's point.