Express News Service

CHENNAI: One of the unintended consequences of the T20 format has been bastardisation of the word ‘intent’. It’s the main batting currency and batters either have it or not. KL Rahul, a few years ago, had it. These days, Rahul, who has gone on record to say ‘strike-rates are very overrated’, only shows it when the situation demands it.  

In early evening Thursday Dubai sunshine, the situation demanded it. And the Punjab opener flexed his muscles with an unbeaten 98 off 42 balls to remind viewers of his unique ‘see-ball, calculate the percentages in his head and hit the ball over the nearest boundary line’ ability. Thursday evening was vintage Rahul, the 2018 version whose 659 runs came at a strike rate of 158.41. In 2019, 2020 and the better part of the 2021 season, the Kings’ skipper adopted a different role, perhaps one to suit the side better. He began anchoring, knowing his presence from ball one to ball 120 was imperative. So his strike rates dipped — 135.38 in 2019, 129.34 in 2020 and 129.16 in 2021 before chasing Chennai Super Kings’ 134 on Thursday.

Gone was the dab to third man for single. There was no sign of keeping the ball on the ground when flicking to the leg side. He had no time to bunt the ball towards cover. Needing to chase down the target with lots of overs to spare to put a semblance of pressure on Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians, Rahul went aerial. Batting in this format is more geometry than science and he had decided to target that area of real estate behind square on the leg side. Two particular sixes — sending Shardul Thakur for a six with a flick and walking across his stumps to swat a Deepak Chahar full delivery for another maximum — will stay long in the memory.  

However, they didn’t do this often enough and that’s why they may not be in the play-offs.

Brief scores: Chennai Super Kings 134/6 in 20 ovs (F du Plessis 76; Jordan 2/20) lost to Punjab Kings 139/4 in 13 ovs (KL Rahul 98 n.o).