Why KL Rahul, Team India should take a leaf out of Buttler’s bold T20 batting


KL Rahul’s conservative approach in the IPL Eliminator is a by-product of an Indian team that plays an outdated brand of white-ball cricket, a reason for their failures in global events.

Shared News: May 29, 2022 9:25:48 am
Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler has racked up 824 runs at a strike rate of 151 so far in IPL 2022.

Two IPL knockout games and two contrasting innings from two openers. In the Eliminator, Lucknow Super Giants suffered from KL Rahul’s conservatism. In Qualifier 2, Rajasthan Royals thrived on Jos Buttler’s boldness.

Going by the hard numbers, both Rahul and Buttler have been wonderfully successful in this IPL. The Super Giants captain scored 616 runs, including two centuries and four half-centuries, in 15 matches. The Royals talisman took his tally to a staggering 824 runs, including four hundreds and as many half-tons, after 16 games. But more often than not, like the Eliminator against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rahul sort of scored his own runs, while Buttler has been the impact-player for his team. Their respective strike rates, 135.38 vis-à-vis 151.47, are in sharp contrast.


Quinton de Kock’s early departure had presented Rahul with an opportunity to become the enforcer in the Eliminator. His team was chasing a 200-plus target and the skipper had the licence to go all-out. He stuck to his own game instead. For the first five overs, he went at less than run-a-ball before a sudden attacking burst against Mohammed Siraj followed by yet again, veering towards the side of caution. In the end, Rahul’s 58-ball 79 was ineffectual, in a game where Rajat Patidar had scored 112 not out off 54 deliveries, batting at No.3 for RCB. Super Giants lost the match by 14 runs. They were just two big hits away.

KL Rahul

KL Rahul has scored 616 runs at an average of 51.33 and a strike rate of 135.38 in the IPL 2022. (IPL | PTI)

Compare this to Buttler’s approach against RCB in Qualifier 2. Royals’ target was modest, an asking rate below eight runs per over. Their openers had the leeway to play themselves in. But Buttler targeted Siraj. There was a bit of risk-taking, which this format demands. An inside edge went past the leg stump for a four. But Buttler didn’t want to surrender the upper hand he had against the RCB quick. Eventually, it was a 15-run over.

Rahul is a by-product of an Indian team that plays an outdated brand of white-ball cricket, a reason for their serial failures in global events. The Indian team is still stuck to keeping wickets in hand before upping the ante in the slog overs. Buttler comes from Eoin Morgan’s gung-ho England side that has revolutionised short-form batting, by playing fearless cricket right from the outset and packing the team with power-hitters. England’s record in the ICC events over the past few years is much better than that of India’s.

Whether India would still stick to their preferred template, with the T20 World Cup in Australia just five months away, is down to the team management. Rahul, on his part, had admitted that he could have been a little more aggressive after Super Giants’ loss in the Eliminator.

“Yes, I think now looking back, it was just about two big hits in the middle-overs and that could have gotten us over the line,” Rahul had said at the post-match press conference, adding: “It’s not that we didn’t try to hit those fours or sixes, we were trying but I think in the middle they bowled really well. I think Harshal’s two overs in the middle was what pushed us back a little bit.”

Jos Buttler

Jos Buttler kept a low profile and even spoke about feeling the pressure after a few low scores during the course of the tournament. (IPL/PTI)

As for Buttler, he has become the enforcer and anchor rolled into one, taking his innings deep, without compromising on his strike rate. This is even a step ahead of Chris Gayle, arguably the ultimate T20 opener. Buttler can match Gayle’s merry-hitting. The added bonus is his ability to take quick singles and twos that allows him to see out certain bowlers. Against RCB, he treated Josh Hazlewood and Wanindu Hasaranga with respect and waited for the hittable balls to hit.

The secret to Buttler’s amazing consistency, according to Royals head coach Kumar Sangakkara, is his shot selection and the ability to play to his strengths. His range helps him more than make up for a few dot balls or a couple of quiet overs.

“Jos Buttler backs his strengths and manoeuvres the bowling to bowl more and more to his strengths. The great thing is he can accelerate anytime. Overall, he is a wonderful guy who thinks deeply about his game and himself,” Sangakkara said at the post-match presentation.

The man of the moment still kept a low profile and even spoke about feeling the pressure after a few low scores during the course of the tournament.

“I came to the season with very low expectations but a lot of energy. It’s very exciting to stand in the final. I had a season of two halves, and (I) had very honest conversations with people really close to me. I was feeling the pressure midway and it was only about a week ago that I opened up about it. It helped me and I went to Kolkata with a freer mind,” Buttler said.

He thanked his coach for some wise words of wisdom. “… Sanga has been saying that the longer you stay, you give yourselves a chance to find a way.”