CHANDIGARH: Not many teams would dare to leave the ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle out of the playing XI, but Kings XI Punjab skipper KL Rahul took a chance in the opening two games of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League.
The outcome – KXIP lost out in a Super Over contest in their tournament opener against Delhi Capitals, and then came a KL Rahul special hundred that powered the side to a convincing 97-run win over RCB.
By his own admission during the toss at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday, Rahul said that the 40-year-old Jamaican power-hitter will be in action ‘at the right time’. This also implies that the 28-year-old Karnataka right-hander is brimming with confidence that the job can be done sans the West Indian and he proved that right with a blistering 132 off 69 balls to flatten RCB.
While Gayle’s exclusion could hurt a few fans, but if one looks at the larger picture, the ploy could well work in favour of Rahul, who is eyeing to cement his place in the national team as the successor to the legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni in white-ball format.
Going into the 13th edition of the IPL, in the aftermath of Dhoni’s sudden retirement call on August 15, the debate has once again heated up on who dons the big gloves in limited overs cricket. Have Virat Kohli and the team management found a suitable replacement to fill in the big shoes of Dhoni?
Well KL Rahul’s power-packed show on Thursday could clear Kohli’s doubts to some extent. After all, who better than the RCB skipper would feel the pinch of Rahul’s power-packed show on Thursday. While Rahul has certainly thrown the hat in the ring, Delhi’s Rishabh Pant will be itching to get into the groove if he has to stay in contention for a place in the national side.
With two T20 World Cups in the next couple of years, Pant will be hoping for some consistency with the bat if he has to compete for that spot. With Sanju Samson of the Rajasthan Royals also putting his hands up with a fiery innings against Chennai Super Kings, Pant faces serious threats to his prospects of settling in the side.
It will also be interesting to see how KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik approaches this IPL, as the stumper would be hoping for one final hurrah in India colours.

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