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KL Rahul has plundered 386 runs in IPL 2016 © AFP Images

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) without a doubt possess the most glittering batting line-up in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016. Featuring the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle and Shane Watson in their batting armoury is similar to owning a castle in Spain. Kohli and de Villiers drew all the attention with  their charismatic performances throughout the tournament and had their share of pie. But there was one name who kept rigidly drilling and inflicted ample damage like a ghost, that name is KL Rahul. He has been instrumental with the bat at the top and did an estimable job when he was descended in the batting order to make way for Gayle. Suraj Choudhari writes about the rise of a batsman who had a run-of-the-mill last season but stuck to his guns and came out with flying colours this edition. KL Rahul: It was not an easy wicket to bat on against MI in IPL 2016

Kohli has been in the form of his life and smashed four centuries in this edition. He walked away with all the fame and glamour but one should not forget Rahul’s vital contribution. Though his performance was overshadowed, he bailed his team out on numerous occasions and complimented well with Kohli. Rahul is technically sound: watches the ball closely (like a hawk), keeps his head still and executes his strokes to perfection. These traits of his help him to play the short deliveries with ease and grace. His timing is exquisite, and at times, gives you an impression of Kohli while playing those stylish cover drives.

RCB successfully made it to the playoffs after having a terrible start to the tournament. In fact, they finished at the second position in the points table. Their batting banked heavily on the likes of Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers, but the Caribbean giant initially failed to go all guns blazing. Rahul was roped in as a replacement for Gayle, but the crafty right-hander grabbed the opportunity with both the hands and made his exclusion questionable. In fact, his good run and Gayle’s lack of form cost the maverick Caribbean his place in the side for few matches. RCB have one of the weakest bowling attacks in the tournament which puts additional pressure on their batsmen; but few craftsmen in their dugout have soaked in and got the best out of them. IPL 2016: Royal Challengers Bangalore take on Gujarat Lions in Qualifier 1

In a format like T20, a team just can’t afford to step a foot wrong, and Rahul—at the top order—ensured he plunders runs and lays solid foundation for the middle order. He further gave a testament to his abilities when he did exceptionally well after being descended in the batting-order.

Rahul has an uncanny knack of returning from the dead and making an impact as he famously did it during the Boxing Day Test in 2014, where he had a dire outing but bounced back emphatically in the next game with an overwhelming century. He did something similar in the IPL too; he had an appalling time last year where he scored just 142 runs in 9 games at a modest average of 28.40. But captain Kohli had faith in him, as he grabbed the priceless opportunity this season and made an impact with his tally of 386 runs at 55.14 and a scorching strike rate of 147.89. This affirms the belief that he has made technical adjustments to his game to meet the T20 demands and the results have been fruitful.

In RCB’s recent game against Delhi Daredevils (DD) that was a virtual quarter-final, Rahul provided impetus and broke the shackles with slyness. RCB were chasing an unpretentious target of 139 on a pitch which was a bowlers’ fantasy: it had bounce, some lateral movement, and importantly, the boundaries were long. Gayle and de Villiers were bundled up for cheap, and Kohli was once again under pressure. Then walked out their silent assailant Rahul, who not only sailed the RCB ship from choppy waters but took on the pumped DD bowlers on a tricky track. He played a resolute knock of 38 from just 23 deliveries, and would have considered himself unlucky by his mode of dismissal. There was a sense of predestination, as the job was almost done with a well set Kohli at the other end and some batting to come. This knock by Rahul eased off the pressure from Kohli’s head and provided some room to breathe. Kohli, who looked tentative initially, was now playing gracefully and Rahul’s knock had major role to play. IPL 2016: RCB’s Shane Watson reprimanded for misconduct against DD

Rahul finally got his dividends paid, as he is the only player to have been included in India’s tour to Zimbabwe as well as West Indies. As of now, Rahul will be looking forward to replicate his magical performance in the business end of the tournament and help RCB end their title jinx. RCB are no longer banking on just Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers, as Rahul has also joined their elite club on the grounds of some sheer hard work and match-winning performances. A prolific run-scorer in the domestic circuit, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Rahul will only get better from here on and will be the man to watch out for in distant future. He has proven his worth and looks hungry for success.

(Suraj Choudhari is a reporter with Criclife and CricketCountry. He is an avid follower of the game, and plays the sport at club level. He has a radical understanding about the subtle nuances and intricacies of cricket, and tries to express it through paper and pen.)