Is KL Rahul’s anchor role sinking Punjab Kings?

The problem with Punjab has been the conservative nature of their planning and it goes right into the first major problem – the team selection.
Nikhil Popat Author

Updated - 22 April 2021 4:47 pm

“It’s tricky to have attacking fields. Was waiting for one of them to get out and then put pressure. Wanted to take the game as deep as possible.”

They say it’s always good to hear from the horses’ mouth and this one line by KL Rahul is an apt summary of the state of mind both he and his now-Punjab Kings side are in.

A nine-wicket loss can be disheartening for any team and one has to be brave and strong enough to see the bigger picture to realize the bits that went wrong to right them the next time but with Punjab, it is this piece that seems completely out of the window.

Coming into the game against Hyderabad (who had never won a game in Chennai in the IPL), Punjab won a crucial toss and opted to bat. That was unfortunately the only call that KL took right on the day.

Mayank Agarwal was dropped early on, KL Rahul couldn’t anchor another innings and Punjab huffed and puffed to a score of 120 thanks to Shahrukh Khan. Isn’t that ironic? Two games in the season, Punjab have been saved from more embarrassment by a guy who’s playing his natural game as per the situation.

The problem with Punjab has been the conservative nature of their planning and it goes right into the first major problem – the team selection.

You cannot leave out Chris Gayle, you need Nicholas Pooran to smash the bowling in the middle overs but you don’t even have death bowlers.

How are you planning to win an Indian tournament with two of your major team-building phases so adequately out of place – middle-order batsmen and death bowling. It does feel, Punjab are truly the Bangalore of the old.

They pushed Nicholas Pooran down to five to lengthen the batting yet twice in this season, they’ve had the tail to save their tail literally.

While the form of Deepak Hooda with the bat is a promising sign, things need to change at the top, with the captain.

A lot has been already said about how KL Rahul has batted conservatively so let’s not go there but what can be a practical solution is KL Rahul moving down to No. 3 to play the role of the anchor who can accelerate later and hold the innings together.

KL Rahul has every shot in the book, but for now, he seems to be not wanting to open it at all. The conservative nature of the thinking is hindering the way Punjab are set up and when pitches are their best, Rahul is busy holding the innings when he should be sending the balls to the fence.

Punjab could just swap positions of KL Rahul and Chris Gayle and it could solve a majority of their batting problems. Gautam Gambhir made an interesting remark after Punjab’s game against Delhi. “Had Gayle faced the number of balls KL faced, he would have scored a century!”

Rahul batted for 51 balls and scored only 61 runs, scoring at an SR of 119.61. It is just inexplicable how Punjab cannot see this glaring issue, staring right in front of them. Yes, KL has played seven games at No. 3 in the IPL and averages just 16 but that was for Sunrisers when he wasn’t himself, but if he wants to play for the team, batting the way he is, might benefit them at 3 more than it is doing at the top.

Had Samson timed his last-ball six a bit better, they would have had zero points on the board right now. It is a highly competitive tournament and Punjab need to stop waiting for a chance and make the game by themselves. Do not wait for a mistake to then latch onto the game, force the mistake.

Punjab need to be as proactive in the field as they are off it. You can change the name of the team, the colour of your franchise, and whatever you want, but until you improve or change your mindset, nothing is going to work and you are only going to be kept waiting by others for your chance to put pressure on them.