Stats corner: KL Rahul has a strike rate problem | Cricket News

: LSG batter KL Rahul plays a shot during the IPl 2024 T20 cricket match between Lucknow Super Giants and Rajasthan Royals at SMS Stadium, in Jaipur,

Lucknow Super Giants skipper KL Rahul can come across as a cricketer with old-fashioned perceptions in the mad-capped T20 arena of youthfulness and innovation.

Returning to the format after a year, Rahul started his IPL 2024 campaign as a wicketkeeper-opener, despite being initially urged by the BCCI to ease into keeping duties after his recent injury setbacks.

He has not played a T20I for India since the 2022 World Cup and is well down the rung of opening options. It was expected then that Rahul would push for a middle-order role with the gloves. However, the 31-year-old opted to return to his favoured opening spot as keeper, ahead of his more accomplished ‘keeper-teammates Quinton de Kock and Nicholas Pooran.

Settling into his usual template as a watchful opener, Rahul’s 44-ball 58 proved insufficient in LSG’s 194-run chase against Rajasthan Royals on a two-paced surface in Jaipur last Sunday. Rahul, on 15 off 15 deliveries at the end of the PowerPlay with LSG at 47 for three, “did not think the target was a lot. It was just 10 over par.”

LSG batter KL Rahul plays a shot as Rajasthan Royals keeper Sanju Samson watches during the IPL 2024 T20 match in Jaipur. (PTI Photo) LSG batter KL Rahul plays a shot as Rajasthan Royals keeper Sanju Samson watches during the IPL 2024 T20 match in Jaipur. (PTI Photo)

Following the defeat, Rahul also opined that “no team has cracked PowerPlays yet”. This would comfortably find its place beside his famous “strike rate is overrated” counters.

Festive offer

An inspection of Rahul’s suggestion tells that a collective struggle for all 10 teams in PowerPlays is a facade, at least since the birth of the Lucknow franchise. From 2022, Lucknow have stood second-worst on average (28.64) with the lowest strike rate (119.07) in the PowerPlay.

Team-wise PowerPlay bat average and RR since 2022

Team

Bat Average in PowerPlay

Team

Batting RR in PP

CSK

46.58

PBKS

8.85

RR

43.53

RR

8.84

RCB

39.12

DC

8.64

GT

38.17

CSK

8.60

MI

36.46

MI

8.54

PBKS

30.21

GT

8.18

SRH

30.86

RCB

8.15

DC

28.92

KKR

7.77

LSG

28.64

SRH

7.80

KKR

22.93

LSG

7.69

Stats as of Mar 27, 2024 following the SRH vs MI match

Scanning Rahul, the T20 opener

Interestingly, Lucknow’s perceived reticence in PowerPlay could be seen as a microcosm of Rahul’s influence and mindset as an opener. Lucknow aggregated 1,432 runs at a strike rate of 119.07 in PowerPlays. Rahul has scored 355 of those (24.79 percent) while playing 326 of the total 1,116 deliveries faced (29.21 per cent).

Rahul’s PowerPlay strike rate, a startling 108.89, is the poorest among the top 15 openers in the period. The trouble extends beyond the first six overs too.

Leading openers in PowerPlay since IPL 2022

Player

Innings

Runs

Strike Rate

Average

Shubman Gill (GT)

35

602

137.12

54.72

Faf du Plessis (RCB)

32

598

137.47

49.83

Ishan Kishan (MI)

31

592

132.43

49.33

Ruturaj Gaikwad (CSK)

31

562

131.92

43.23

Yashasvi Jaiswal (RR)

25

557

162.86

50.63

Jos Buttler (RR)

31

551

131.50

36.73

David Warner (DC)

29

546

149.58

60.66

Wriddhiman Saha (GT)

30

544

133.00

30.22

Rohit Sharma (MI)

31

511

132.04

25.55

Virat Kohli (RCB)

24

475

131.94

59.37

Shikhar Dhawan (PBKS)

26

420

121.38

32.30

Devon Conway (CSK)

22

375

126.68

53.57

Abhishek Sharma (SRH)

22

374

131.22

34.00

KL Rahul (LSG)

23

355

108.89

50.71

Stats as of Mar 27, 2024 following the SRH vs MI match

While he averages a healthy 45.14 opening over the last three seasons, Rahul’s overall strike rate of 127.93 is also the lowest among the top 15 leading run-scoring openers. Shubman Gill and Devon Conway average higher than Rahul while maintaining a 140-plus strike rate.

However, Rahul’s play pattern has worked for him while batting first. Though four openers have scored more runs in wins at a higher strike rate batting first, Rahul’s optimal methods with a 69.14 average and 143.19 strike rate has helped him total 86.7 percent of his runs (484 of 558) in 10 wins – the best among all the batters.

Act Two

While that may pass the batting forensics, the ‘chasing’ Rahul is a glaring concern.

Thirty-one matches would suffice to say that Lucknow prefer batting first; 12 of their 17 wins have been of that nature. Moreover, 11 of their 13 defeats in the league have come while chasing a target.

Rahul, injured towards the second leg of the 2023 season, led in eight of these 11 losses. His returns? 273 runs at a meagre 113.27 strike rate (the average strike rate of openers in the concerned games was 120.17).

KL Rahul as LSG opener

Scenario

Matches

Runs

Average

SR

50+

HS

Match: Win | Bat: First

10

484

69.14

143.19

5

103* (60), 103* (62)

Match: Loss | Bat: First

2

74

37

113.27

1

74 (56)

Match: Win | Bat: Second

4

117

29.25

114.70

0

40 (26)

Match: Loss | Bat: Second

8

273

34.12

113.27

3

79 (58)

Rahul has no fifty in a match-winning chase for Lucknow. His only three fifties in chases as LSG opener have witnessed him cop the ire of experts and fans on social media, more recently with his knock against Rajasthan and more famously in the IPL 2022 Eliminator against Royal Challengers Bengaluru. Steering a steep 208-run chase, Rahul collected 79 in 58 deliveries before perishing in the penultimate over. LSG were knocked out after a 14-run defeat.

In contrast to his run as an opener, Rahul’s most successful LSG opening partner, de Kock, has compiled 655 runs in 20 innings with a 146-plus strike rate.

If he can jog his memory back, Rahul would summon his 2018 self when he smashed 658 runs at an astounding 158.41 strike rate – effectively his best IPL season.

The Jaiswals, Gills, and Gaikwads have leapfrogged him in the T20I race. The Rohits and Kohlis are consciously trying to up their PP game too. The wicketkeeping queue is thickening. Will Rahul buckle up for a change?

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