Let's talk about KL Rahul's nonchalant flicks for six, shall we?
In the current Indian batting unit itself, there are players who are incredibly strong with their wrists. But none similar to KL Rahul.
Subcontinent batters are generally blessed with strong wrists but surely that can't be the only explanation behind the power that KL Rahul generates with his flick shots to achieve a rare combination of height and distance to carry the ball deep into the stands. It actually isn't. In the current Indian batting unit itself, there are players who are incredibly strong with their wrists. But none similar to Rahul.
Virat Kohli lets his bottom hand dominate while whipping seamers over mid-wicket. He generates power but not height. Mostly the result is a four or a flat a six. Suryakumar Yadav has wrists to drool over too. But more than the powerful wrist, the key to his success lies in the unusual yet effective positions he gets himself in. He mostly stands tall, sort of gets under the ball and scoops the ball by using the bat almost like a spoon with long levers.
Rahul, on the other hand, remains incredibly still with bare minimum movement - he just gently plants his front foot - after picking the length early and lets his wrists do the rest. And boy what a job they do. Former India opener Aakash Chopra had tried to give a step-by-step explanation of how Rahul generates power with just a flick of the wrists. "Rahul stays still at the point of release. He takes a very short forward stride ensuring that his head does not fall over. He then uses the bottom hand to flick it over square leg," he had said on ESPNCricinfo.
Take his first six in the second T20I against South Africa in Guwahati for example. All Wayne Parnell did wrong was perhaps to pitch it a couple of inches on Rahul's half and nearer to his pads. That was enough for the India vice-captain. He whipped it, not with the force of Kohli but with the gentleness of Rahul. The result, however, was worth several replays. Despite not coming off the middle of his bat, the ball sailed over the ropes quite comfortably.
In the first over after the powerplay, Rahul repeated the same against Anrich Nortje. The only difference from the earlier six was that Rahul may have used a little more force in his whip. There was no change in the outcome though.
The flick off his pads for a six early in the innings is also often an indicator of Rahul being in top gear. He had hit a similar kind of flick against Tim Southee in IPL 2022 while playing for LSG in a match against KKR. That time his shot was more akin to a scoop. But the other factors remained the same - a still head, minimal front foot movement and height and distance generated using his wrists. He had scored an unbeaten 68 off 51 in that match.
This shot is not a recent development in Rahul's game. He had hit Southee in the second tier in a T20I at Auckland using that same gentle flick in 2020. The twirl in his wrist was the highlight there. Like an automated switch, his wrists came into effect, allowing him once again to achieve the maximum with minimum effort. His score was 56 off 27 balls.
He mustered 57 off 28 on Sunday. The ease with which he was hitting the ball a couple of days after scoring his slowest T20I fifty on an entirely different surface and under circumstances, showed his range.
"There is a certain gift that all of us have gotten since birth and that is why we are playing for the country. We obviously train really hard. That shot is something that I have practised a lot and it feels nice when it comes off in the game. It is (Instinctive). In T20 cricket you have to try to get yourself in positions where you can hit sixes, I try to do that. When bowlers are bowling at 145 km/h there's not much time. It is instinct and a lot of hard work over the years," Rahul said after India beat South Africa by 16 runs in Guwahati to seal the three-match series.
Rahul had given an example of exactly what he said a couple of weeks ago in the first T20I against Australia in Mohali. He doesn't always need the ball on his pads to play that jaw-dropping flick. He can walk across his stumps, maintaining a still head, perfect balance and still manage to make his wrists generate power just like he did against Josh Hazlewood. That ball travelled 92 metres.
"Going at a higher strike rate was a demand. When you are batting first you obviously want to give yourself a couple of overs to assess the conditions to see what are the shots that you can play, you talk to your partner. You sort of give yourself a target and then you try and play accordingly. We've always tried to be more aggressive, take a lot of risks," he said.
Rahul nearing his attacking best ahead of the T20 World Cup augurs well for India.