What’s Gone Wrong for Kings XI Punjab, and How They Can Fix It
Placed last in the IPL standings, here’s a look at what KXIP have got wrong this season.
2020 has been an unusual year in many respects. Even the ever-consistent Chennai Super Kings have felt the impact with the MS Dhoni-led side languishing at the second-last spot.
However, one thing has remained the same – Kings XI Punjab's poor show in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The last time the team made it to the playoffs was in 2014, when they finished as the runners-up, courtesy of Glenn Maxwell's heroics. Post that, the side has struggled big time, including two bottom finishes.
Rub of Green Not Going Punjab's Way
Punjab looked good on paper this year with Anil Kumble at the helm as the head coach and KL Rahul being given the responsibility of leadership. But that luck wasn't going to be kind to them was evident in their first match of the season against Delhi Capitals.
Despite a fine knock from Mayank Agrawal, the team failed to make even a single run off the last three deliveries and the match was tied, with Punjab losing in the Super Over.
From that point on, the rub of the green has not gone in Punjab's favour at all. The team showed their potential by registering a massive 97-run win against Royal Challengers Bangalore in their second game and should have won their third match against Rajasthan Royals comprehensively as well. Little did anyone anticipate that Rahul Tewatia, after scoring just 8 runs off his first 19 deliveries, would end up with a 30-ball half-century and change the face of the match completely.
KXIP, who should ideally have been with three victories after the first three matches, had just two points and it kept going from bad to worse from there on with big defeats against Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad. Just when it seemed that Punjab would bounce back against Kolkata Knight Riders, they choked again to hand KKR a two-run victory.
At the halfway stage, KXIP are reeling at the bottom of the IPL points table with just one win after seven matches. Unfortunately, a resurgence for them from here on looks highly unlikely. The decisions that they are making are not helping their cause either.
Excessive Chopping and Changing
One of the biggest errors that the franchise has made is of constant chopping and changing. They began with Karun Nair at No 3 in their first match, who has now been replaced by Mandeep Singh. Sarfaraz Khan, who started in the middle order for Punjab, did not get sufficient chances and has been benched.
The spin bowling composition, which comprised Krishnappa Gowtham in the first match, has seen Harpreet Brar and Murugan Ashwin being auditioned for the role and then discarded. Chris Jordan, who was part of their starting XI, has been dropped twice. Sheldon Cottrell has met the same fate.
In the last four matches, they have used three different wicket-keepers with KL Rahul, Nicholas Pooran and Prabhsimran Singh donning the gloves.
Horses for courses is good but when you are making two to three changes in every match, players start getting unsure of their place and that reflects in their performances as well.
Punjab desperately need to settle on a playing XI and give players at least two matches to prove their mettle. Players like Chris Jordan and Murugan Ashwin have proved themselves in the past and the least they deserve is backing from the management. With the league past the halfway stage, one fears that it might already be too late for the franchise.
No Show From 'Big Show'
On the contrary, a change that Punjab could have considered making is Glenn Maxwell. Maxwell, who has made just 58 runs from 7 matches at an average of 14.50 and a strike rate of 95.08, with the best of 13*, has been given a long rope despite repeated failures.
That is not particularly a bad approach but given that players are being chucked out after just one or two ordinary performances, the thinking in the Punjab camp seems a bit muddled. Apart from IPL 2014, where Maxwell was on fire, particularly in the UAE leg of the tournament, the 'Big Show' has never really played to his potential in the IPL.
This year, he went back to Punjab for a whopping Rs 10.75 crore and was expected to go well, especially after he entered the tournament on the back of a sensational century for Australia against England. Unfortunately, the talented power-hitter has disappointed yet again.
It is not ideal but with Maxwell having had enough opportunities, Punjab will be better off to give Chris Gayle an opportunity at the top of the order in place of Maxwell, with Mayank Agarwal batting one notch below at No 3.
With the presence of former Indian captain and an astute cricketing brain Anil Kumble – a very successful IPL coach for the likes of Mumbai Indians – in the Punjab camp, they were expected to be tactically sharp, which has not been the case.
The franchise has taken several iffy decisions, least of all throwing the ball to Krishnappa Gowtham for the last over against Mumbai Indians. It was party time for Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard as the duo smashed the off-spinner for 25 runs in the over with four massive sixes.
Sending Prabhsimran Singh ahead of Glenn Maxwell in the batting order in back to back matches, KL Rahul batting over cautiously and the management not backing Murugan Ashwin despite decent performances in the two matches he played have also been baffling moves.
That said, stalwarts like Anil Kumble, Andy Flower, Jonty Rhodes and Wasim Jaffer must be proceeding with some logic, but with the results having not gone in their favour, they would be better served to follow fundamental cricketing wisdom. Punjab must not allow match-ups, statistics and analytics to overpower common sense.
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