The campaign of Kings XI Punjab till now can be divided into two contradicting halves. They won 5 of the initial 6 matches to reach at a very comfortable position. At one point they were leading the points table and it looked certain that they would make it to the playoffs.
However, their winning streak was followed by a one week long gap. Since they have returned, things have not been the same for them. In the 6 matches that they have played after that, they have lost 5 and won just one match.
To be candid, Punjab have not been the greatest IPL teams throughout that 10 years of the league. While they have never managed to lay their hands on the trophy, the closest they have got is to be runners up in 2014. The main reason behind their ordinary performances is that they have not been able to build a core set of players. This is also why the fans have not been able to identify with the franchise. Building on the same, let us put Punjab’s campaign of IPL 2018 under the scanner.
Just like the campaign of the Kings XI Punjab, the captaincy of Ravichandran Ashwin can also be divided into two parts. While the first half was amazing and Ashwin was widely appreciated for his tactics, the second half has not been great.
Understandably as well, when the team is winning and the decisions are paying off, they look brilliant. But as soon as a couple of decisions go wrong and the team embarks on a losing streak, things can go down south very quickly.
When KXIP’s batting lineup was settled and the team was consistently scoring runs, Ashwin decided to tinker with it. He promoted Axar Patel up the order and dropped Aaron Finch down. Coupled with one or two other changes, this somewhat broke the momentum of Punjab and they have not been able to recover from that since.
Another critique of Ashwin’s captaincy is that he persisted too long with Yuvraj Singh who did not fire at all. In the 7 matches Yuvraj has played, the southpaw has scored 64 runs at an abysmal average of 12.80.
That being said, Ashwin’s move of playing the young Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman went very well and he still remains one of the leading wicket takers of IPL 2018.
Punjab’s batting is clearly over dependent on its openers. KL Rahul has been unbelievably consistent, scoring 558 runs in 12 matches at an average of 55.80. Fellow opener Chris Gayle was drafted in the side late in the tournament. But the moment he got a game, he showed one and all that he still has a lot of cricket left in him. Although his last 3-4 matches have not gone very well, Gayle remains one of the star batsmen of the Punjab lineup.
Captain @ashwinravi99 is confident of a turnaround in the Kings' fortunes as they look to win both the games lined up and make their place in the #VivoIPL playoffs.#LivePunjabiPlayPunjabi #KXIP #KingsXIPunjabhttps://t.co/V5o8dHnq7Y— Kings XI Punjab (@lionsdenkxip) May 15, 2018
The biggest disappointment for them this season has been Mayank Agarwal. Agarwal had an outstanding Ranji season wherein he scored runs at a Bradmanesque average. However, since he has come into the IPL, his form has subsided and he has been getting out cheaply.
Karun Nair has been another disappointment for KXIP. While he has done well a couple of times, Nair has not been able to maintain his consistency. What makes it worse is the accolades that cricket pundits have been showering upon him from many years.
Aaron finch returned from his honeymoon after missing a couple of games but unfortunately he had no honeymoon period in the field as he could only manage a string of ducks. All the same, as time has moved on, Finch has improved somewhat but still needs to go a long way.
Andrew Tye has been absolutely amazing for the franchise with 20 wickets in 12 matches. Tye leads the bowling charts and is in contention for the Purple cap. Ankit Rajpoot is another Indian pacer who has impressed one and all with his raw pace. In the limited opportunities that Rajpoot has got, he has shown that he is capable of bigger things.
Mohit Sharma has had a very disappointing year. Punjab retained Sharma for 2.4 crore but he has not been able to repay the faith of the team. Although he has picked wickets, Mohit has been very expensive.
Along with Tye, Mujeeb Ur Rahman has also been the pick of the bowlers for Kings XI Punjab. His variations have been on-point and batsmen have not been able to pick him up. As a result, he has not gone for many runs and also picked up 14 wickets in 11 matches.
Captain Ravichandran Ashwin has been quite decent with the ball. He has neither let the team down by giving away too many runs, nor has he contributed in any special manner by picking up consistent wickets.
Marcus Stoinis was Punjab’s big ticket all rounder but he has failed to deliver with both bat and ball. In a couple of innings, Stoinis showed glimpses of what he can do but that has not been enough when we look at the bigger picture.
Axar Patel has bowled economically but despite getting several chances with the bat after being promoted up the order, has not been able to score runs.
With 6 wins and 6 losses in 12 matches, KXIP still have a fair chance to make it to the playoffs. Even if they win 1 and lose 1, they have a chance to sneak in. However, they would certainly like to win both of the remaining matches to have a sure shot place in the next round.
Punjab have to face Mumbai Indians next who are on the verge of an IPL ouster and would try their best to remain alive in the competition.
If KXIP have to be wary of anything, it is themselves. They have the entire arsenal required to put up a good show but the team has imploded very often.
If Punjab wish to make it big in this tournament, they would have to arrest their losing streak – as they have lost 5 games in their last 6 matches – and get back to winning ways against Mumbai.
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