It has been an interesting week for the Kings XI Punjab. First, a report emerged that claimed team owner Preity Zinta had engaged in a foul-mouthed rant at coach Sanjay Bangar, which she denied had happened. Then, a report from the Deccan Chronicle claimed that Shaun Marsh had been sent home because he had taken a swing at an unnamed team mate. It was alleged that this incident is what led to David Miller being replaced as captain. Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson both denied that this incident had happened either. As far as they are concerned, the players are still in good spirits despite their desperately poor season.
Maxwell tweeted his amusement at the suggestion of a brawl. “Hahaha just saw a report that Shaun Marsh was sent home because of a brawl with a KXIP teammate, not because of injury.The poor bloke was in agony in the field last game he played, and then this rubbish comes out! #absolutegarbage#indianjournalism #lies”
There were similar tweets from David Miller, Johnson and Kyle Abbott all of whom directed their anger towards Dipankar Lahiri of Sportskeeda although he was only repeating the Deccan Chronicle story about the ruckus in the dressing room.
Maxwell was not done, tweeting a note from his phone to explain things further. “Reports that say the team are in disarray are pathetic… Despite a lot of things that haven't quite gone our way, Murali Vijay and David Miller have done a great job with insuring the group stays tight through good and bad times and we will continue to be a close group of players despite what these sensationalised reports are saying."
So they are happy, but they were bottom of the league going into this game. That was not the case after the match against the Mumbai Indians, where the good progress that their seam bowlers have made in recent weeks was transferred into an actual victory against a very good but very inconsistent team.
Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma and Marcus Stoinis were all excellent with the ball, with Stoinis continuing his impressive debut season in the Indian Premier League. The Australian all-rounder now has eight wickets at an average of 20 and 146 runs at a strike rate of 135.
So many of the problems that have plagued the Kings XI in 2016 have been because of their misfiring overseas players in the middle order. On Friday night in Visakhapatnam neither Miller nor Maxwell were needed. By the time Maxwell came to the crease the game was already won and Miller did not get to bat at all.
This was because Murali Vijay and Wriddhiman Saha put together a match winning stand of 116, the highest partnership the Punjabi side have made in this edition of the IPL. It was a brilliant, paced innings from Vijay whose 54 runs took 52 balls but held the innings together perfectly. Saha got his runs quicker making 56 from 40.
By the time Saha chopped a ball from McClenaghan onto his stumps there was only eight runs needed and the match was over. Maxwell came to the crease and lasted just one ball before chipping the ball to mid-on for a duck, his third innings without scoring this tournament. Thankfully, he was not needed this time as he has been in the past.
This was a brilliant effort with bat and ball from the team led by their home grown players. For a team that has relied so much on its overseas stars in the past it is significant that the success that has come their way in recent weeks has been on the back of the performances from their home grown batsmen and bowlers.
In the last match against Royal Challengers Bangalore, they came very close to winning in a really tight finish, but in this match the game was never once a close affair. Mumbai only managed 21 runs in the PowerPlay, the fewest made by any team in the first six overs of their innings in the 2016 IPL. From there the Mumbaikars never really recovered setting a sub-par total that they didn’t do a great job of defending.
There may have been talk of an unpleasant fracas behind the scenes in the Kings XI camp, but there was little evidence of it on the field in this match. The same concerns about the form of Miller and Maxwell exist, and even if they win their three remaining fixtures their poor net run rate will count against them when qualifying spots are being worked out. They need some serious help from other teams and chances are they aren’t going to get it. But they are finishing the season far better than they started. Granted that was not difficult considering how awful they have been for large parts of this year, but it is better than what went before. It is just a shame that those green shoots of recovery come when winter was already just around the corner.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: May 14, 2016 18:45:16 IST