IPL 2023: Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul and the tale of two captain’s fifties

On Saturday, first it was Hardik Pandya who scored a 44-ball fifty to finish on 66 runs from 50 balls. It was reached with a six and the final flourish witnessed 25 runs from 8 balls. The blitz at the end took Gujarat Titans to 135 runs and gave the GT skipper some room to breathe, some room to fight. It wasn’t much but it was better than what they were staring at after losing Wriddhiman Saha.

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The second fifty came in the second innings. It belonged to his Lucknow Super Giants counterpart KL Rahul. It was slightly quicker – needing just 38 balls. Eventually, he mustered 68 runs from 61 balls. The difference in the finish could not be starker.

Where Pandya provided his team a fighting chance by going after Ravi Bishnoi and Marcus Stoinis, KL Rahul took the win away from his team. It is a harsh assessment to make of someone who has time and again been pivotal in the T20 format, but the other side of the coin means he doesn’t get much leeway.

From 50 in 38 balls, Rahul took 28 balls to score his next 18 runs. Even in a small run chase that is unforgivable. It becomes perplexing when you see the freedom LSG had at their disposal with wickets in hand and the target to get.

“We perhaps should have taken a few more chances with wickets in hand. They bowled decently. Not an easy wicket for new batters to come in. Set batters need to finish the game,” said KL Rahul after the game.

“We missed some boundary opportunities in the end. The pressure got to us in the last 3-4 overs, we played well until then. But we should have got it done.”

Hardik Pandya too believed the set batters had to bat through since the wicket wasn’t kind enough to new players to get cracking immediately.

“The way the wicket was playing, on the very high end side, we could have got 10 more. It was up and down, it was slow, they bowled really well. During the strategy timeout, we spoke about the batter batting to stay long. I fancy my chances of getting a couple of hits than someone coming in [new] on this kind of wicket. Yes we could have got 10 more, but this was competitive.”

So both captains, who had been on the same page with decision to bat at the toss, were on the same page now with approach and strategy.

KL Rahul continued to bat the way he had for the most part and waited for the Mohammed Shami over to get into the attacking mode. Needing 17 runs from 12 balls, you’d have still backed LSG to go get the win. In most cases they’d have triumphed but this was the outlier.

Eventually Hardik Pandya’s attempts at attacking late proved fruitful while KL Rahul struggled to make contact. Both skippers played unconventional T20 knocks on a slow surface and things panned out for one but not the other.

First Shami and then Mohit Sharma managed to shut the door on the LSG batters. A miserable effort with the bat shouldn’t steal the praise that should go the GT duo’s way. They didn’t err with the line, were on the money and the fielding was up to the mark for two run outs in the final over.

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