Matches (18)
IPL (1)
WI vs SA (1)
USA vs BAN (1)
ENG v PAK (W) (1)
CE Cup (3)
T20I Tri-Series (2)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)

Talking Points: Is KL Rahul being too conservative at the top?

And what has led to the transformation in Dhawan's strike rate over the years?

Saurabh Somani
Here are the main Talking Points from the 11th game of the IPL, in which the Delhi Capitals chased down 196 in the 19th over.
Is KL Rahul being too conservative at the top?
This was a more or less constant debate during IPL 2020. Rahul then started IPL 2021 with a sparkling 91 off 50 balls against the Rajasthan Royals. However, he reverted to 2020 type in the third match against the Capitals, ending up with 61 off 51 balls for a strike rate of less than 120, while his opening partner Mayank Agarwal smashed 69 off 36 in a game where 196 was chased down with 10 balls to spare.
Since IPL 2020, there have been only five instances of a batter facing 50 balls in the first innings and ending up with a strike rate of less than 140. The lowest three are all by Rahul, and the Punjab Kings have lost the game each time.
As Shiva Jayaraman from ESPNcricinfo's stats team pointed out: "Rahul got seven scores of 40 or more in IPL 2020, all but one helping them to post scores in excess of 170. But five of those scores by Rahul were at a strike rate of less than 130, and the Kings ended up losing four of those games. Even the only game they won was off the last ball of the match. Perhaps the Kings are getting the 'big' scores with their captain batting through the innings, but these totals are not proving enough for the conditions."
ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats calculated that Rahul's 61 runs were worth only 44, taking into account his low strike rate, and even though he was one of only three players to score a fifty, his impact was only the tenth-best in the match. More damningly, Luck Index calculated that Steven Smith dropping Rahul in the second over actually cost the Kings 16 runs. Which is another way of saying that the Capitals benefitted more from Rahul staying at the crease than the Kings did.
What has led to the transformation in Dhawan's strike rate?
Before IPL 2019, Shikhar Dhawan was traded out from the Sunrisers Hyderabad to the Capitals, a trade the batter was in favour of. Playing under head coach Ricky Ponting, Dhawan began 2019 poorly, with the first six matches yielding an average of 25.33 at a strike rate of 116.03. Before their next match on April 12, Ponting delivered some blunt words to Dhawan, and made it clear he expected more of the senior batter. That seemed to unlock something prolific in Dhawan as he went on to hammer an unbeaten 97 off 63 .
"It was a conscious effort from my side," Dhawan said of the rise in his strike rate, at the presentation on Sunday. "I knew that I have to improve on that, then I started taking more risks. It paid off nicely for me. I'm not afraid of changes and I'm not scared of getting out as well."
No one, for instance, has scored more IPL runs than Dhawan's 1773 since April 12, 2019. But what's more impressive are the conjunction of a high average (45.11) with an elite strike rate (147.73). To illustrate better, Dhawan has averaged higher than David Warner and Virat Kohli in this period, and amongst the top ten run-getters, only AB de Villiers has a better strike rate than Dhawan's.
Where Dhawan's value is really shown, though, is through ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats. With his 92 off 49 on Sunday night, Dhawan has moved ahead of even de Villiers, and since April 12, 2019, no batsman has a higher batting rating in the IPL than Dhawan.
Did Punjab Kings give themselves enough options?
That dew can cause a massive impact on the game is known, especially at this time of the year in India. The Kings were unlucky that they got a particularly heavy-dew evening and lost the toss, being forced to bowl second. However, the make-up of their XI meant they had no cushion for the dew. All of Mohammed Shami, Riley Meredith and Jhye Richardson were carted to all parts of the ground, and Rahul had only Arshdeep Singh as a pacer who could offer some control. While Shami had an off day, the Australian quicks were faced with conditions they have not encountered. Could the Kings have drafted in someone like Chris Jordan instead?
With a sameness to the attack, the conditions that affected one affected them all.
Who are Jalaj Saxena and Lukman Meriwala, and why were they picked?
Both teams had an IPL debutant each, and both had sound reasons to bring them in. The Kings brought in Saxena, an offspinning allrounder, to counter the left-hander heavy Capitals' top order. They might have thought Shimron Hetmyer would play too, ahead of Steven Smith, which would have meant the Capitals had Dhawan, Rishabh Pant and Hetmyer as left-hand batters. That meant a good offspinner was key, and Saxena has proven to be just that over years of domestic cricket.
Saxena has been the foremost red-ball allrounder in the Ranji Trophy for Madhya Pradesh and Kerala over the years. A wily offspinner who has drift and loop, Saxena also bats anywhere in the top six. He had been part of the Mumbai Indians, the Royal Challengers Bangalore and even the Capitals earlier in the IPL without getting a game.
Meriwala was brought in by the Capitals because he offered the left-arm angle, with all their other pacers being right-armers. When the Capitals left out Ajinkya Rahane and Tom Curran on Sunday, and brought in Steven Smith, they could bring in an Indian bowler, and it was Meriwala.
Meriwala has been a consistent performer for Baroda especially in white-ball cricket, and moreover, Ponting said during the game that he had been impressive during their training sessions. With Ishant Sharma still not fully fit and Umesh Yadav probably lacking full match fitness, Meriwala was the natural choice in the XI.

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo