K.L. Rahul India’s best batsman after Kohli, says Karnataka’s Ranji coach

At this IPL, the stylish opener from Karnataka has shown that one doesn’t need to compromise on technique to score big consistently in the shortest format.

One of the most pleasing sights of the season has been the way K.L. Rahul times his shots.   -  PTI

A fortnight ago, K. L. Rahul posted a photo of himself from an IPL match of Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) on his Twitter handle. Along with the picture was a question addressed to his first coach, Samuel Jayaraj Muthu: “Coach, you proud of this? Head still and elbows high!”

Any coach would surely be proud. Especially, when it is done in the maddening frenzy of Twenty20 (T20). At this IPL, the stylish opener from Karnataka has shown that one doesn’t need to compromise on technique to score big consistently in the shortest format. Purists would be pleased.

One of the most pleasing sights of the season has been the way Rahul times his shots. Time after time. Right from his first match for Kings XI Punjab, against Delhi Daredevils (DD) at Mohali.

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That was his first IPL game after a great season in 2016, in which he scored 397 at an average of 44.41 for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). He had to miss out on 2017’s tournament after the shoulder injury he sustained during the Test series against Australia, in which he had scored 393 at 65.5.

He made his IPL comeback and the change of teams count, slamming the fastest 50 in the history of the tournament, off just 14 balls.

He has followed it up with scores of 47, 37, 18, 60, 23, 32, 24, 84 not out and 95 not out. He was unlucky that his highest score came in a losing cause, against Rajasthan Royals (RR) at Jaipur, a couple of days ago.

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That innings, however, helped him snatch the orange cap from Ambati Rayudu (he has since had to hand it over to Rishabh Pant, who smashed that devastating hundred for Delhi Daredevils against Sunrisers Hyderabad).

After 10 matches, Rahul has 471 runs at an average of 58.87 and a strike-rate of 156.47. He looks to be in the zone, the world where, as Mike Brearley would explain, the player is in harmony with and it with him.

This IPL could turn out to be another turning point in his career. He could now establish himself as India’s best batsman in all the three formats, after Virat Kohli.

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“I believe Rahul is India’s best batsman after Kohli and his performance in the IPL could make him an even better and more confident player than he already is. I was impressed with him right from the first time I saw him. His timing and technique had caught my eye straightaway,” P.V. Shashikanth, Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy coach, who has worked with him since his under-19 days, told Sportstar on Thursday.

He added that he was glad that nobody would brand Rahul as merely a Test batsman any longer. “He has been phenomenal in this IPL. His batting has reminded me of A.B. de Villiers,” he said.

High praise, indeed.