During his brief reunion with the national side for the T20Is against Bangladesh, after being dropped from the Test squad post the West Indies series, KL Rahul tweeted: “Happy Place.” The happiness reflected in the third T20I in Nagpur, where he crunched a fluent half-century, only for the effort to be overshadowed by Deepak Chahar’s feat, the first hat-trick by an Indian as well as the best figures by any bowler in this format.
The innings, though coming against a modest attack and in batting-friendly conditions, reminded that Rahul was in a happy place, batting-wise, and wasn’t woe-stricken as he had been for most of this year in Tests. He was calm, measured and methodical, like when he first burst onto the international scene, as a batsman equipped to deal with the challenges at the highest level.
While the road back to the highest level is difficult – now that his close friend Mayank Agarwal and Rohit Sharma have more or less sealed the opening slots — Rahul is keeping himself in the loop, filing frequent reminders of his quality across formats. After influencing Karnataka’s trophy-clinching Vijay Hazare campaign, wherein he amassed 598 runs at 66.44, he has begun well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, his tally after five games reading 225 runs at 75. He belted his best score of the tournament yet, an unbeaten 84 off 48 deliveries, punctuated with four sixes and eight boundaries, helping Karnataka hunt down Punjab’s 163 with two overs to spare.
Against the new-ball pairing of Sandeep Sharma and Siddarth Kaul, Rahul began in a blaze of boundaries. In two overs, they raced to 33, in which his partner Devdutt Padikkal’s contribution was merely two.
In his T20 template these days, he starts off with a flurry of boundaries before decelerating, followed by another short boundary-burst. He was especially severe on Kaul, who was smeared for three sixes and a boundary in the first over — a hook, pull and a trademark lofted-drive over cover. Kaul eventually ended up with hideous figures of 46/0 in three overs. On a slightly dry surface, Rahul knew he had to score heavily against the pacers — Sandeep too wasn’t spared, as the generally thrifty bowler’s three overs bled 26 runs. The spinners were dealt with more caution, especially the impressive left-arm spinner Harpreet Singh Brar. But then to show his spin-proficiency, Rahul hit him inside-out over cover. Rahul and Manish Pandey stitched a 60-run alliance for third wicket.
With Pandey going after the bowling, Rahul chose restraint. When Pandey perished for 33, Rahul returned to his boundary-picking mood and guided Karnataka home. They are runaway toppers —12 points from three Super League games. Rahul’s biggest test— and the outlet for a longer reunion with the national side — would be this Ranji season, but in limited-overs legs of the domestic season, he has done his chances no harm.
Punjab 163/6 (Mandeep Singh 76, Gurkeerat Singh 44; Ronit More 4-27) lost to Karnataka 167/3 (K L Rahul 84 not out, Manish Pandey 33; Mayank Markande 1-33) by seven wickets.
At Surat: Jharkhand: 170/4 (Kumar Deobrat 58, Sumit Kumar 28 not out; Shubham Ranjane 2-17) lost to Mumbai 171/5 (Prithvi Shaw 64, Shivam Dube 23; Sonu Singh 2-34) by five wickets;
Haryana 181/6 (Himashu Rana 59, Shivam Chauhan 47, Simarjeet Singh 2-43, Nitish Rana 1-13) beat Delhi 151/8 (Nitish Rana 37, Rishabh Pant 28; Yuzvendra Chahal 3-27) by 30 runs;
Maharashtra 165/2 (Azim Kazi 48 not out, Ruturaj Gaikwad 47, Kedar Jadhav 47; Swapnil Singh 1-19) beat Baroda 98 all out (Kedar Devdhar 27; Satyajeet Bachhav 2-5, Samad Fallah 2-12) by 67 runs.