After smashing an unbeaten 98 off just 42 balls and to help his team gun down 135-run against CSK in just 13 overs, PBKS captain KL Rahul was delighted to do the job for the team. Punjab jumped to fifth spot after the win and will now rely on results of other teams to qualify for the playoffs.
After being asked to bat first, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) batting lineup collapsed straightaway and once MS Dhoni departed, the scorecard for the three-time champions read 61 for 5 in 12 overs. Opener Faf du Plessis took the responsibilities and fired 76 off 55 balls to take his team to 134/6 at the end of 20 overs.
KL Rahul, in the post-match presentation ceremony, revealed that he was well aware of the fact that his team needed to gun down the target inside 14 overs to improve their Net Run Rate and chances of making it to the playoffs, and that was the reason why he cut himself loose from the very first over. Rahul's rampant innings included seven four and eight sixes as Punjab Kings (PBKS) won the match by six wickets and in 13 overs, toppling Mumbai Indians (MI) to occupy the fifth spot.
A confident KL Rahul asserted that he felt ultra confident in the middle and backed himself to clear the boundary ropes on his whims and fancies. The 29-year-old also talked about the need to preserve his 'lucky' bat going into the T20 World Cup 2021.
"It was really hot today. Plan was simple. The numbers guys pulled up a few permutations and combinations," said Rahul after the match. "They said if we chase this before 14 overs it gives us the best chance. So the plan was clear and I had the licence to go from ball 1. One of those days when it comes off when you have complete clarity. All of the them hit the middle of the bat. I don't think I have creamed the ball that sweetly in some time.
"My personal favourite would be the one (SIX) off Josh Hazlewood over square leg. I love playing the pull shot. Especially after being struck on the head, was a good response. It's (the bat) making a funny noise with the handle so I was just a little worried in the middle. There's a World Cup coming up. I want that bat to stay fit. I will go back to the room and fix it up."
'My strike rate has been questioned but I know my role'
The star batsman has been questioned for his below par strike-rate in the past, but that hasn't bothered him much because of his clarity of role in the team. The Bengaluru-born, who finished with an strike rate of 233.33 in the match, said that he would be letting the team down if he starts playing the way he wants to.
"It was just what the team needs. I know there has been a lot of talk in the last 3-4 years about my strike-rate and me playing slowly. But only my team and I know what's my role and what my responsibility is. I tried to play the role the team requires off me every game. I feel I am letting the team down if I play the kind of cricket I want to play. It's always team first for me. That's how I have grown up and that's how I will continue to play. Today the team needed this. I was happy that I could play this kind of a knock," said Rahul.
"When you get going like that you feel like you can hit every ball. You need to hold your shape. The only thing I keep telling myself is I am not a power-hitter. I still rely on timing and getting my body in good positions. So I keep telling myself to set up strong, watch the ball and trust my instincts to play the right shot. In the nets I train my mind and train my instincts to make the right choice in the middle. There's no better feeling than hitting the ball in the middle of the bat and watching the ball fly all over the park," he added.
Punjab will now want to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Mumbai Indians (MI) to lose their respective matches on Thursday and Friday respectively. Rajasthan Royals (RR) are also in the playoffs race mathematically, but they will have to beat a strong KKR side comprehensively to imporve their NRR and go past PBKS and MI in the points table.