Kings XI Punjab and India opener KL Rahul’s future was thrown into doubt after he was suspended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) earlier this year over his controversial comments in a popular television chat show.
Rahul’s Test form had taken a hit during the four-match series against Australia and following the suspension, the Kings XI batsman was not in the India limited-overs scheme of things.
Rahul had missed limited-overs series in Australia (ODIs) and New Zealand but earned an India recall during the home series against Australia ahead of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019. Following some consistent performances for India A against England Lions, Rahul made a mark by shining at the top for India in T20Is vs Australia.
Rahul though struggled to carry the form into IPL 2019 as he was out for single-digit scores in Kings XI Punjab’s first two matches.
Cut to April 2019, Rahul has put himself in contention for a place in the Indian World Cup squad. The Karnataka batsman has seemingly hit peak form, scoring three half-centuries in their last-four matches.
On Monday, Rahul’s unbeaten 71 helped Kings XI Punjab registerer their seventh successive win in Mohali, their third straight win at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in IPL 2019. Incidentally, it was in Mohali Rahul regained form, hitting a match-winning 71 for KXIP against three-time champions Mumbai Indians earlier in the tournament.
On a two-paced wicket wherein Sunrisers Hyderabad’s David Warner hit his slowest IPL fifty, Rahul made batting look easy as the visiting SRH side succumbed to a six-wicket win in what is turning out to be KXIP’s fortress.
Despite losing Chris Gayle early, Rahul steered KXIP’s 151-run chase on Monday, stitching a 114-run stand with Mayank Agarwal. Rahul kept his nerves as KXIP lost a few quick wickets in the end and got past the finish line after needing 11 runs in the last six balls.
KXIP were cruising towards the target, needing 19 from 18 with nine wickets in hand. However, they lost the wickets of Agarwal, David Miller and Mandeep Singh only to be rescued by Rahul, who showcased why he is rated among the best going around.
Speaking after King XI Punjab’s win over Sunrisers, Rahul said: “Didn’t start off the way I wanted to in the first couple of games. Just enjoying my batting and happy to end up on the winning side. Been playing with Chris for a long time and really enjoy batting with Mayank. The batting group has done well so far.
Rahul revealed he had told his batting partner Sam Curran in the final over of the tense chase to not look for sixes and rather strike the ball hard down the ground. Notably, Agarwal, Miller and Mandeep perished while looking for big ones on a dewy evening where the ball was skidding on to the bat.
“The way Mayank came out and the way he was striking even against Mumbai gives me a little bit of time. He had to look for the boundaries, I did tell him (Curran) that maybe hitting six is difficult. I told him to target the pockets.”
Having won four out of their six matches in the ongoing season of IPL, Kings XI will travel to Mumbai to take on the Mumbai Indians on Wednesday.