Lucknow Super Giants captain KL Rahul should bat "quicker rather than longer", "take the game on", and have "fun" while batting instead of trying to make his team win on his own, according to ESPNcricinfo's experts Sanjay Manjrekar and Daniel Vettori.
On Wednesday, Rahul scored 79 off 58 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Eliminator of IPL 2022, but failed to take Lucknow Super Giants home in a 208-run chase. Manjrekar said Rahul is "temperamentally not suited" for the responsibility of being the main batter in the side, especially when he is the captain in the IPL.
Speaking on ESPNcricinfo's show T20 Time:Out, Manjrekar said: "We've seen enough of KL Rahul to now know that when he becomes this player, the captain, the key player of the side… I mean Virat Kohli loves that kind of responsibility. Dhoni loved it. I think Rohit Sharma, barring this season, generally likes that kind of responsibility. Maybe KL Rahul temperamentally is not suited to take this kind of responsibility where he is the man who has got to get the job done. They are just made of different mettle and maybe KL Rahul isn't.
"As a coach, I would drill that into his head to tell him that I'm not expecting you to win the game. You just go and have fun, and funnily enough, you'll see the results start coming and that's why I believe he has a much better strike rate at the international level rather than at the IPL level because he's just one of the many batters. He's playing alongside Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma and the others, so he just goes out there and expresses himself."
Manjrekar called Rahul's knock a "third-gear innings". In the last few years at the IPL, Rahul has batted more like an anchor than the aggressor he is when playing for India. His strike rate in the last four IPL seasons has been 134.53 whereas at international level he scores at 142.49 overall.
"KL Rahul's innings is something that we've seen before when he was captaining Punjab Kings, for example, [and they] would fall short of a run-chase," he said. "The scenario would be the same. You'll have KL Rahul batting right till the very end, they would have lost three or four wickets and people like [Nicholas] Pooran would come in like Evin Lewis came in the last two overs and Krunal [Pandya] in the last, [Marcus] Stoinis in the last three. So [for them], it's a bit working with the crumbs that are left. You've got to come in and try to make up for the lack of pace that the innings had.
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"KL Rahul himself has the ability to do that. You see every time he decided to play the big shot, it came off. He played a couple of terrific shots against [Josh] Hazelwood. He can do it when he wants to but he just has this very deep-rooted belief, or an attitude, or an approach, that he wants to bat longer rather than quicker.
"If I was his coach, I would just take that decision out of his hand even if he's the captain, for we've seen a lot of games where the teams would benefit immensely if KL Rahul just batted quicker rather than longer."
This was a strange season for Rahul. When batting first, he scored 425 runs in eight innings at an average of 85.00 and a strike rate of 148.60. But while chasing, those numbers dropped to 191 runs in seven knocks at an average of 27.28 and a strike rate of 113.01.
"I did focus on my stats that this season I didn't score many runs in the second innings," Rahul said after the match, "but this was a big game and when you come to a big game, you forget whatever you did in the last 14 games. You try to play this game as a fresh game and you try to give your best. I tried the same even today.
"Yeah, I didn't score too many runs in the second innings this season but in other seasons I have really done well, and I enjoy chasing. Sometimes you are not as successful. But it's a team game and the team really stepped up when we were chasing. We won a few games but generally overall in this season, we didn't do well while chasing, so it's something we need to learn from."
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In a match where Rajat Patidar scored 112 not out off just 54 balls, Rahul's knock was much slower, though both were playing different roles for their respective sides. Vettori, though, was of the opinion that Rahul is good enough to score as quickly without taking as many risks.
"If you tell him, 'You being more aggressive at the top is not risky because you're such a good player, there's no reason for you to want to bat this long, there's no reason for you to want to bat in the style because you're good enough to bat any way you want.' And you're not asking for anything that he can't do and I think that's the key to it that.
"Like Patidar today took risks. KL Rahul can take half as many risks as Patidar did and still be incredibly successful. So I think it's just what I said at the start, destigmatising risk. This is not a risky style of play for you. Just take the game on. That will lead to more wins than trying to manage or navigate a way through a chase.
"So if you think about this, a couple of more risks through the powerplay and all of a sudden that [becomes] 60 off 42, [which] looks so much better. And it takes so much pressure off the likes of Deepak Hooda because when we got to that back end, it was just like 'I've got to go after every ball.' That means the bowlers know exactly what you're doing, whereas early on, the bowlers are still trying to guess your intent, and I think you [Super Giants] let them get away with that at that stage.
A lot of times, a weak middle order is cited as the reason behind Rahul's conservative approach, but Vettori felt Rahul needed to trust his team-mates more.
"Quinton de Kock has proved it enough, Deepak Hooda has proved it enough. You've got other players that you could give more opportunities to, Stoinis, [Jason] Holder, Evin Lewis. It's Sanjay's point around, go out there have some fun. Pretend almost like you're playing for India and then trust everyone around you. It's not all on you. Whatever you contribute will be good enough."