Talking points: Rahane's dream T20 innings

In the last month, he's missed a World Cup spot and lost the Royals captaincy but he went out there a player freed of all burden

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
The Redemption
Ajinkya Rahane has a T20 strike-rate of 118. It is a fair reflection of his work in the shortest format but flies in the face of the kind of shots he has. Like those jaw-dropping on-the-up drives.
Coupling those shots - which are inherent strengths of his - with a little extra intent - as shown by the down-the-track flat-bat for four off Kagiso Rabada - the former Rajasthan Royals captain brought up his second-highest score within the Powerplay of an IPL game: 40 off 25.
That - in light of the month he's had - is significant. Missed a World Cup spot. Lost the Royals captaincy. And today, he even ran out his partner for 0 off 0 and then got dropped. The critics were sharpening their knives. Rahane shut them down with a 32-ball fifty and celebrated it by punching the air, as if he had a point to prove and he loved proving it.
Not long after - 26 balls to be precise - he was celebrating his second T20 hundred. It came at the same pace as Virat Kohli's earlier this season and was plenty quicker than KL Rahul's. Yet guess who among those is not in the the running to be India's No. 4?
The star allrounder...?
Ben Stokes is likely to leave India after April 25 and, prior to the start of the tournament, Royals might have dreaded it. But the England allrounder hasn't had the kind of impact that makes him worth INR 12 crore (USD 1.7 million). Make no mistake, when he performs to potential, he is absolutely priceless. So long as, y'know, you don't give him the 20th over. But this IPL, he has been among the poorest allrounders. His batting average is 22, his bowling average is 31, and his debut season, when he was named player of the tournament, is looking a distant memory.
The fast bowler's reinvention
Ishant Sharma had no takers for the IPL last year. And before that, he played only six of 14 matches for Kings XI Punjab, taking zero wickets while being smacked around at 9.94 an over. Except look at him bowl now and all of those stats seem like a cruel joke. He's been moving the new ball around. He's been beating the bat. And that economy rate of 7.1 puts him among the top five pacemen in IPL 2019 (under condition of at least six overs bowled).
His team's advisor Sourav Ganguly raved about him after the match at Eden Gardens, "The best thing was how our bowlers did. Ishant Sharma, when we picked him, people said he's a Test bowler. And he's been our best bowler for the last six-seven matches, that's the way." While the player has put in a performance deserving of that praise, Capitals have also managed him beautifully.
Ishant doesn't really have the game to bowl in the death. So, this year, he's only bowled 12 deliveries from overs 16 to 20. He does, however, move the new ball off the pitch rather nicely, which is why he's bowled 138 of his 180 deliveries in the Powerplay, maintaining an economy rate of 6.39.
The turning point
Five ducks in five innings - the first man to do so in T20 history. Ashton Turner is not having fun this IPL. The same Ashton Turner who stunned India when he led Australia's chase of 359 last month. His night got even worse when he dropped Prithvi Shaw on 10. Royals made their total on the back of an opener scoring a century after he was dropped. It was nice of them to at least try and return the favour. Later though they might have to get back to the drawing room and figure out if the young allrounder is worth a place in the XI. After all, teams this year have been happy to play with less than the allotment of four overseas players.
Going dark
The zing bails are a cool addition to cricket. They light up when they're complete dislodged but the problem is they're not being dislodged. On at least five occasions this IPL, the ball hit the stumps but not resulted in a wicket.
The latest was Jofra Archer - an express fast bowler - beating Shaw with a full toss and though the ball clearly made contact with the stumps the bails wouldn't come off. This wasn't even the first time Archer's been denied a wicket at a crucial time in this way: eventual match-winner MS Dhoni survived after dragging the ball on last month.
Only last night, Umesh Yadav delivered a 141 kph delivery that straightened past Faf du Plessis bat and shaved the off stump. Still no zing.
Two weeks ago, in Jaipur again, Chris Lynn could go on to make a half-century even after Dhawal Kulkarni breached his defences. And wicketkeeper MS Dhoni flicking the ball onto the stumps with Rahul outside his crease ended up being useless as well (outside of drawing a sly grin from Dhoni, which really is the purpose of the entire IPL)
With input from Gaurav Sundararaman and Srinath Sripath

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo