When Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) were to play Gujarat Lions in the first leg, KL Rahul’s name was not in the eleven. Mandeep Singh was to play, but during warm-up, he picked up a freak injury and Rahul was drafted in.
Rahul went on to smash an unbeaten 51 off 35 balls and hasn’t looked back, even being in reckoning for the India limited-overs team on the basis of his IPL showing. It’s been impressive the way he has shrugged off the tag of a Test specialist and re-invented his game in the shorter format.
As he gears up for the third game of the season against the Lions, he has been buoyed by the news of his inclusion in the team for the tour of Zimbabwe.
The Karnataka cricket fraternity is crediting the transformation to Virat Kohli’s influence. The RCB captain had given him the breakthrough in Tests as well and was at the crease when Rahul got his maiden hundred in Sydney.
In any sphere, the backing of the leader can make the difference. Kohli is in the form of his life and it has rubbed off on the junior batsman. A technically correct player in the captain’s mould, the transformation can be seen in his approach. While Kohli is killing bowlers with his array of all-round strokes, Rahul has surprised by the power he can generate in his hits. Starting with the three sixes against Lions in Rajkot, he has now smashed 16 sixes.
In the do-or-die game against Delhi Daredevils on Sunday, Kohli watched proudly from the other end as Rahul took the pressure off him and provided support once senior pros Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers departed early.
Another youngster who has flowered under Kohli is leg-spinner Yuzvendra Singh Chahal. After a series of losses, the RCB bowling unit was riled for lack of teeth. Led by Chahal, the attack has come back well.
The leg-spinner sits atop the wicket-takers’ heap (19 wickets), and on Tuesday, he will take the field sporting the purple cap in front of his home crowd.