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IPL 2023: Is KL Rahul's injury a boon or bane for LSG? What would be the team combination?

IPL 2023: Is KL Rahul's injury a boon or bane for LSG? What would be the team combination? Krunal Pandya is given LSG's captaincy in Rahul's absence.

In KL Rahul's absence Krunal Pandya is given LSG's captaincy_ Walking wicket (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Krunal Pandya is given LSG's captaincy (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)

Losing a captain in the middle of an IPL season would be tough for any team. And Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) are going through that phase currently as they have lost their captain KL Rahul due to a thigh injury. LSG are currently placed third in the points table, with 5 wins from 11 games. They needed their captain more than anytime now as the race for play-offs has tightened up. But with Rahul not in great form, could a change in leadership would help LSG, or is Rahul’s injury a bane for the team? What would be the team combination now as Rahul has been ruled out of the tournament?

Rahul’s achievements as a leader and batter for LSG

In the last IPL season, KL Rahul was the second-highest run-getter in the tournament with 616 runs at an average of 51.33 with 2 tons and 4 fifties in 15 matches. He also led LSG to the playoffs in the team’s maiden appearance in IPL, only to go down to RCB in the Eliminator by 14 runs.

In the ongoing IPL 2023, Rahul has been able to manage just 274 runs at an average of 34.25 with 2 fifties in 9 matches before he was ruled out due to injury. However, before he announced his exit from the tournament, Rahul has led LSG to a top four spot currently. LSG is still in the top four despite no wins in the last three games. Overall, Rahul has led LSG in 24 games, winning 14 and losing 10 games.

Rahul has done fairly well as opener-cum-captain

Rahul has done a decent job as opener-cum-captain in the two seasons, although his returns with the bat have not been upto mark this season. Irrespective of his inconsistencies this season, Rahul the leader will definitely be missed by the LSG squad as they would have by now got adjusted to the captain’s expectations, way of marshalling the resources and adhering to the captain’s plans, field placements and leadership.

Besides, Rahul’s stay at the top of the order will be missed as he lifts his game in key matches, and can be destructive on his day. Usually, KL Rahul plays the anchor role as an opener while other players bat around him. Hence, LSG will have to fill up that spot as well left behind by Rahul. Also, Rahul leads from the front, where he looks to finish the job for his team. Will a new captain be able to do that?

New changes - a gamble or well-thought-out strategy

In the last LSG fixture, the team management drafted Quinton de Kock as a replacement for opener Rahul and Krunal Pandya to replace captain Rahul.

This move has made LSG sacrifice their depth in bowling as they have to leave out Afghanistan medium pacer Naveen-ul-Haq and bring in de Kock to comply with the four foreigners’ rule in the XI. Medium-pacer Naveen-ul-Haq had done a good job so far, taking 7 wickets in 4 completed games. But in the last game, they had to leave him out, bring opener de Kock and bowler Avesh Khan, who has not been at his best this season. The apparent bowling weakness was exploited by Gujarat Titans who made a record total of 227/2.

However, LSG would be happy to see Kyle Mayers and De Kock’s opening combination click instantly as the two put a stand of 88 runs in 8.2 overs against GT. LSG also tried Manan Vohra as an opener, but the move backfired. Hence, it is likely LSG will continue with the Mayers-De Kock combination even if the bowling gets depleted. But if they want to strengthen their bowling, and keep Naveen-ul-Haq in the XI, then de Kock will have to sit out, and Vohra or any other player could open with Mayers. LSG also signed Karun Nair as Rahul’s replacement, but it is highly unlikely Nair will get a chance as his stocks have depleted across formats.

IPL 2023, LSG vs GT, Top Performances_ Krunal Pandya's all-round show (2-16, 23) goes in vain as GT beat LSG _ Walking wicket (Images_ ©IPL_Twitter)
Krunal's all-round show (2-16, 23) goes in vain as GT beat LSG (Images: ©IPL/Twitter)
Krunal Pandya as captain: Right move or a gamble?

LSG management chose Krunal Pandya as the captain even though he has not been in great form with the bat or ball this season. A possible reason could be that Pandya could play the whole season instead of an overseas player, who can be asked to leave IPL and turn up for international cricket. However, Krunal didn’t have much success with captaincy in domestic cricket. He had once stepped down as Baroda captain after the team’s below-par show in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2021. He has just 122 runs and 8 wickets to show for his efforts in 12 games for LSG this IPL season.

But LSG management looks to have trusted Krunal with his abilities, and the senior Pandya brother will look to lead from the front in the remaining few league games to help his team book a top-four finish.

Could an overseas player as captain be a better option?

Nicholas Pooran and Marcus Stoinis were the possible captaincy candidates, but LSG went ahead with Krunal. Both Pooran and Stoinis have the experience of captaincy in their respective country’s domestic tournaments, but LSG management has taken a bet on Pandya to guide the team at the business end of the tournament. The possible reason could be that Pandya, being an Indian player, can guide the local players better and will be available throughout the season, while an overseas player might struggle to take the team forward at this stage of the tournament.

The Task Ahead

Currently, the challenge for the LSG management and Krunal is to win the remaining games with a big margin as the net run rate might come into play to decide the top four finishers. Also, Krunal has to contribute more with the bat and ball to show he is the best man for the job as he could then command respect from his teammates. A slip or two will see LSG losing the play-off berth.

LSG play their next game against Mumbai Indians on May 16 in Lucknow.

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