IPL vs National team has been a debate which has been going around for more than a decade now. But, the fear around the IPL has been rationalized. Now, there are players who magically perform in the IPL but end up underperforming for their national teams. Chris Gayle, Andre Russel, Kieron Pollard and many others, the list is too long. India’s KL Rahul is also one of them.
Rahul fails again
On the Sunday evening of 28th August, India was somehow able to crush Pakistani spirit by handing them a 5-wicket loss. But the recurrent problems refuse to disappear. One of them is dull performance of KL Rahul. Even against Pakistan, he was bowled on the first ball. The fact that the shot he played was not an irresponsible hoick, but rather a dab, casts a shadow of doubt on his rise as a megastar.
There is a reason behind it. Rahul’s recent performances have not been even close to ‘coming of age cricketer’ which he was touted as since he made his debut way back in 2014. On the recent Zimbabwe tour, KL Rahul, the captain cumulatively scored 31 off 51 balls. Granted, he was coming back from injury, but that excuse should be better left for poor performances against strong teams. A strike rate of 60 doesn’t suit an IPL stalwart.
Rahul’s IPL theatrics
In fact, whole career of KL Rahul can be considered as a dichotomic, analysed by dividing it into his IPL stint and his time with Indian Jersey. He has been the star of the IPL so far. The man has been a hot favourite of every IPL team he has played for. There was a time when he was considered in the leagues of AB De Villiers, Chris Gayle, Aaron Finch and Virat Kohli.
In the 2016 season of IPL, the man was the third-highest run-getter for his team. He was so committed to his team that he donned the wicketkeeping hat as well and was named as wicketkeeper in the reputed Xis of cricbuzz and Cricinfo. In the 2018 edition, Kings XI Punjab paid him 11 crores to play for their team. In the very first match, KL Rahul showed his dedication by scoring the fastest half-century of IPL. Rahul finished the tournament as 3rd highest run-getter, scoring 659 runs at a strike rate of 158.41 and an average of 54.91.
Skyrocketing IPL graphs
In the next season, he played the role of sheet anchor who changed gear whenever he wanted. Finishing the tournament as the second-highest run-scorer, he scored 593 runs with an average of 53.90 and a strike rate of 135.38. In 2020, he was captain of his team and scored 670 runs with an average of 55.83. During his century innings RCB, he whacked Dale Steyn for 26 runs. The Punjab captain was in fact an orange cap holder. The trend continued in 2021 and that is the reason why KL Rahul became the highest-paid IPL cricketer in the 2022 season, and why a new team, Lucknow, paid him 17 crores to captain the team.
Poor show with national team
But, as his IPL graph kept skyrocketing, his performance with the national team took a dip. Rahul made his test debut in the last Test series of MS Dhoni. His flamboyant strokes laden century on Australian soil drew instant praise from all corners of the game. His bat used to make crunching sounds when he sent the ball rolling through the cover boundary.
Initially, the promises he offered did translate into performances. Rahul used to score centuries for fun. In barely 20 innings across 3 formats, the man scored centuries in all forms of the game. Watching him bat was like a dream come true. The man had the audacity of Virendra Sehwag coupled with technique as good as his idol Rahul Dravid.
Well nurtured by team
This amalgamation is the reason why he can play anywhere in the batting order. For 4-years since his debut, Rahul was given time to nurture himself and that is why his successes made more headlines than failures. The bad rep he used to get due to his failures with the national team was compensated by the praises he got during 2-months of entertainment he provided in IPL.
But World Cup was itching in and Rahul needed to assure selectors and he did with a T20 century against England in July 2018. But, a few months later, he was suspended due to his undisciplined participation in Karan Johar’s show. Things have never been the same since then, except for his IPL journey of course.
One Koffee changed things
Somehow, he was drafted into the World Cup team. Rahul did score well but his performances were not flawless and as impactful as they used to be. Since that world cup, he has never been consistent. Compared to the IPL average of 48.01, KL Rahul averages only nearly 40 for India in the T20s. Even in ODIs, which is considered his saving grace, he averages 45.00, again not a big mark in favourable batting conditions. The situation gets grimmer in Tests.
KL Rahul who was once considered a technically sophisticated Test specialist has a paltry average of 35.38 in 5-day games. However, there is one shining light in these numbers. KL Rahul is not known for capitalizing on weak opponents. If he is in form, he will thrash Steyn and if he is not, he will get dismissed by a part-timer as well.
Mexican waves in IPL but silence with national teams
Apart from his IPL performance, this is the only thing which goes in favour of KL Rahul. That is why selectors still show faith in him and are slated to replace Rohit when he hangs his captaincy boots. He has in fact shouldered this responsibility on more occasions than one. But that is not enough when you see his batchmates from the 2010 U-19 world cup. These players include stalwarts like Joe Root, English Test captain Ben Stokes, their One Day captain Jos Buttler, and Australians Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa among others.
All these players command the respect of their team only because they have been reliable players for their team. But, even after nearly a decade, Rahul is not a reliable batsman for his national team, though he is highly rated in the IPL.
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