KXIP skipper KL Rahul, in the aftermath of his side’s defeat versus SRH, was left disappointed after learning that the team that holds the Orange Cap will not be declared as the winners of the IPL. Rahul was initially of the thought that KXIP will be declared champions if he wins the orange cap.
With five defeats in six games, Kings XI Punjab have been doing their side’s ancestors proud with their showing thus far this season, but, unlike Punjab teams of the past, it does look like the KL Rahul-led KXIP team of 2020 might be ‘not winning’ deliberately. This conspiracy stems from the press conference given on Thursday by franchise skipper KL Rahul, who embarrassed himself and his club in public - albeit virtually - by admitting to not knowing the rules of the competition, before blatantly retracting on his statement after a brief chat with coach Anil Kumble.
As Rahul entered the media room post his side’s 69-run defeat at the hands of Sunrisers Hyderabad to address the press, he was questioned about his side’s abject surrender in their clashes versus both SRH and CSK. But, instead of spewing out lies and pretending the team needs no changes like Stephen Fleming does, the 28-year-old took a bizarre detour and started talking about his own achievements with the bat.
“Look, I’ve been really pleased with my performance with the bat. I had one goal prior to the tournament - and Anil bhai knows it too - which was to win the Orange cap and I’m extremely pleased that so far, I’m on course to meeting the target. I thought I was lucky in the RCB game, so I would rate my 69 in Sharjah as my best knock. There, without showing intent and taking risks I scored almost 70 runs, and we got to the par score which we were looking for, which was 220. In fact, at one stage it looked like we could get 250, but I didn’t want to break the trust of the management so as discussed during the strategic time out, I ensured we got to the 220-mark (223) and nothing more. Why waste all runs in one game?,” Rahul said, when asked about his assessment of Punjab’s performance versus SRH.
“Yes I ran Mayank out deliberately today because I wanted to keep the orange cap. I know how important it is to me and my team and I’ve already spoken about it to Anil bhai,” he explained.
Rahul’s bizarre first answer left the media personnel attending the virtual press conference perplexed, but confident that Rahul had just misunderstood their question, the press decided to give the KXIP skipper a pass. However, it was Rahul’s second answer that invoked suspicion amongst those attending the presser, who sensed something fishy after paying attention to what the 28-year-old had to say.
When asked about KXIP being bottom after 6 games and how they can turn things around, Rahul said, “I know we are bottom but the good thing is that I still hold the Orange cap. Both Mayank and Pooran are also within striking distance so I think, overall, we are in a pretty good position.”
Things took a wild turn after Rahul’s second statement as when a journalist pointed out that the Orange Cap would mean nothing if the team finishes bottom, Rahul lost his temper. Placing the Orange Cap he was wearing on the table, the KXIP skipper, in an infuriated, assertive voice hollered, “This, right here (pointing at the orange cap) is everything. Does anyone out here understand the basic rules? Winning the Orange cap equates to winning the IPL and I’m appalled that you, the so-called journalists, do not know about this.”
Dead silence ensued and this is where things got awkward for Rahul. He was quickly pulled aside by Anil Kumble, who had a long chat with the Punjab skipper. Post the chat with Kumble, after a good 5 minutes, Rahul returned with a completely different, cheerful demeanor and asserted that he was ‘joking’ and ‘playing with the press’ and left stating that KXIP will bounce back.
However, SportsCafe have since been able to access the ‘secret’ conversation between Rahul and Kumble, which busts the ‘joke’ theory. The chatter between the two, in the secret footage, was as follows:
AK: KL, what is going on? What are you on about?
KL: What did I say wrong, Anil bhai? What did I do?
AK: The whole orange cap thing, what does it have to do with our league position? Why are you rambling about it?
KL: How is it inconsequential?
KL: Bhai, you told me before the tournament, didn’t you? You asked me to aim for the Orange cap and told me that KXIP will 100% win the IPL if I win the orange cap. What has changed now?
AK: KL, are you serious? I did not literally mean what I said.
AK: Have you been thinking what you’ve been thinking for all these matches?
AK: We’ll talk about this later. Go and deny whatever you said. Play it off as a joke. Please.
So, was Rahul really ‘just joking?’. Well, an in-depth dissection of both his batsmanship and captaincy suggests that the right-hander, in fact, might very well have been playing just for the orange cap all this while.
Rahul might be sitting atop the batting charts, with 313 runs to his name, but have his runs ‘really’ been useful? Let’s find out.
Rahul’s average of 62.60 is the second-best amongst the Top 10 highest run-getters of IPL 2020, but his overall SR of 136.68 is the third worst in the list. And oh, the 136.68 number is outrightly skewed by his RCB knock, where he struck 132* (69). Minus his knock versus RCB, Rahul, in this IPL, has scored his 180 runs off 161 balls (SR 112.5) and, you guessed it right, all those 180 runs came in losing causes. In fact, the RCB game is the only match this season where he’s maintained a SR north of 130.
Sure, these numbers are decent, and wouldn’t have been a problem in low/mid-scoring games, but across the five games in which Rahul had a SR of 112.5, the scoring rate of the opponent sides were 9.85 RPO. In the Sharjah game, where Rahul batted for 54 balls and struck at 127.77, no batsman who batted more than 10 balls had a SR lower than 170.
Playing ‘anchor’ is cool, but does any side in the world - that too a strong batting side like KXIP filled with power-hitters - need anchors who eat up 45 balls every game without providing the finishing touches? In the games against Rajasthan, Mumbai and Chennai, Rahul ate-up deliveries aplenty, yet perished without “making up” for the slow scoring. Can ‘responsible batting’ really be an excuse? What’s the use of any player being a captain if he’s not going to trust his own players to deliver? That too experienced, seasoned veterans.
Consider this: Rahul’s scores in the powerplay this season have been 21 (19), 23 (18), 26 (18), 14 (14), 24 (21) and 11(16) - a cumulative SR of 113.3. Is there any logic or reason behind not attacking Khaleel Ahmed and Sandeep Sharma inside the powerplay, chasing 200, knowing that Rashid Khan will bowl four incredibly tight overs post the six-over mark? We don’t find any.
You know what this tells us? That Rahul was lying in the press conference, that he unironically believed that winning the orange cap equates to winning the IPL.
In fact, actually, we can confirm that Rahul indeed did think that winning the orange cap meant winning the IPL.
“Until and unless that orange cap stays with Kings XI I'm happy. He's (Agarwal) worked very hard and deserves that cap. I'm sure I'll take it off him soon.” - Rahul said these words post KXIP’s defeat versus MI this season, but while this statement adds more legitimacy to our theory, we spoke to one of his teammates and close friends to clear the air.
SportsCafe got in touch with a member of the KXIP camp and quizzed them about Rahul, and this is what they had to say: “His (Rahul) orange cap obsession has gotten out of hand. He takes it everywhere he goes, even to the washroom, and always tells in the team huddle how he will have the orange cap at the end of the match. He even instructs bowlers to concede more so he can score more runs and also makes captaincy decisions that will help him win the orange cap. Now Agarwal is scoring well as an opener right? Don’t worry, next match, Gayle will open and Agarwal will be sent to number three. KXIP exist in IPL 2020 to win….the orange cap for Rahul.”
Meanwhile, another teammate of Rahul spoke about the skipper’s obsession with ‘orange’.
“He is obsessed with Orange. Eventhough he is a KXIP player, ‘Go here we go we’re the orange army’ is his mobile ringtone and he only drinks Fanta. He has been binging the ‘Orange is the New Black’ TV show and last week, he even rooted for Donald Trump in the debate because some comedian posted a Tweet that the US President looks orange. Even yesterday, before the SRH game, he was watching the Netherlands' Nations League match versus Mexico. His obsession is getting out of hand and we’re suffering,” a Karnataka batsman playing for KXIP said.
Could this orange obsession explain Rahul’s abject display versus SRH on Thursday? Was he so obsessed with the colour that he wanted the team donning the Orange jersey to win - even at the expense of his own side losing? That we will never know. For now, though, we know he holds the Orange cap, and we know he finally now knows the truth. Only time will tell if Rahul’s realization about him having been delusional, all this while, will make or break him.