KL Rahul looked shackled for the most part of the IPL 2021 campaign, holding the fort from one end to cover for Punjab Kings' inconsistency in the middle-order. The franchise's head coach Anil Kumble, however, has clarified that he did not want anyone to restrain himself or bat at a low strike rate.
Yet to win an Indian Premier League (IPL) title after 14 editions, Punjab Kings will begin the 2022 season with plenty of new faces. With the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Jonny Bairstow, Mayank Agarwal, and Kagiso Rabada in the team, there are those who breathed a sigh of relief thinking the franchise might not have to opt for the conservative approach that former captain KL Rahul had to in the last season.
However, head coach Anil Kumble believes Rahul did not have to do that in IPL 2021.
Kumble stated that the franchise never asked Rahul or any other player to "restrain himself" or bat at a low strike rate. Kumble explained that he has never taken a "conservative approach" in T20 cricket and does not plan to do so this season either.
Speaking to Hindustan Times in an interview, Kumble said, “No, I don’t think we ever wanted any player to restrain himself. In this format, I don’t think you can take a conservative approach. The natural ability of a Mayank or a Shikhar (Dhawan) is to attack. Even with the rest of the players, I don’t think there will be any approach to curb their natural instincts. That has never been my approach at all."
One of India's most consistent T20 batters, Rahul batted at a strike rate of 129.34 and 138.40 in the two seasons he captained the Punjab-based franchise. While the numbers looked decent on paper, there was a widely accepted opinion that he was holding back his natural game to support the fragile middle-order they had.
When asked if he feels more confident in the hunt for the title in IPL 2022, Kumble said that he feels he has the players in place to play the brand of cricket that he has been looking for.
"It’s a fresh start for all the 10 franchises. I think the brand of cricket we wanted to play; we have put together that sort of strategy. We are very happy to be able to get those kinds of players who naturally fit into that strategy rather than force somebody into playing that kind of a role.
"We looked at strategies to help us achieve the right result. Even when we picked the domestic players, we looked at the roles they could play and that clarity is very important in the T20s. In the end, you don’t just put together a squad for this year. You invest in a few players who will perhaps be the future," Kumble concluded.
After two seasons, Rahul decided to move on to the new franchise Lucknow Super Giants with a record contract worth INR 17 crore. He will be captaining them in the IPL 2022, which is set to begin on March 26.