All through the 2017 Indian Premier League, Kings XI Punjab have been a picture of inconsistency. Often a string of good performances and uplifting victories has been followed by a dreadful defeat. In the end this inconsistency has cost Kings XI a playoff spot after they embarrassed themselves against Rising Pune Supergiant in Pune on Sunday afternoon.
Coming off four victories in their last five matches, Punjab would have been confident they could keep their good run going and claim the last playoff spot in this year’s IPL. They appeared to have finally gotten their team balance right, with the inclusion of another spinner to assist Axar Patel and New Zealander Matt Henry to bolster the pace attack. Unfortunately for Henry he was expensive in their last outing where they defended 230 by the skin of their teeth against Mumbai and he was dropped for Eoin Morgan.
Kings XI’s confidence and momentum mattered for little in the end as they collapsed to a paltry 73 all out at the MCA Stadium on a surface that assisted the bowlers early due to some dampness caused by rain over the previous few days in Pune. The Punjab innings started poorly with Martin Guptill driving a loose one from Jaydev Unadkat straight to Manoj Tiwary at cover off the very first ball of the innings.
Shaun Marsh fell shortly after, chipping a catch straight to his Australian captain Steve Smith before Morgan took on Unadkat’s arm and lost. With three of their big name overseas players already in the shed before the score had reached 25, Kings XI were in dire straits. Things only got worse from there as the procession continued.
Once again Glenn Maxwell made the unusual decision to hide himself below less capable batsmen, maybe not wanting to come in against a newish ball. This time it was Rahul Tewatia sent to the wolves and the promotion was unsuccessful as Unadkat’s good game continued with a brilliant catch at short fine leg. Maxwell finally came in at six, and only lasted three balls as he chipped a Shardul Thakur half-volley straight to Ajinkya Rahane at deep square leg.
When the captain departed Kings XI were reeling at 32/5 and the game appeared all but gone. They had lost their whole top order to a series of poor shots and soft dismissals. The pitch was clearly slow, making it difficult to hit through the line, but the Punjab batsmen kept trying to force the pace and hit the ball on the up resulting in simple catches for the Pune fielders.
With Wriddhiman Saha, who was in great form from the last match, and Axar Patel, their best player this tournament, still at the crease the men in red held out hopes for a competitive total. Saha had already been given a reprieve by a flat footed MS Dhoni and looked to capitalise in partnership with Axar. However another tame dab from Saha, the same shot which had him edging to Dhoni earlier, this time ended his innings with the former Indian skipper not making the same mistake again.
Time and time again this IPL season Axar has been the shining light, the lone beacon of hope for Kings XI in the lower order but this time the task was too great even for a man who had saved his side as many times as Axar had. The pressure to score and post a defendable total got to Axar and drew a loose shot from the left-hander as he edged Dan Christian through to Dhoni for the innings high score of 22 off 20 balls.
Little could be expected of the tail after Axar’s dismissal, and they, like the main batsmen succumbed meekly to the Pune bowling.
In such an important game the manner of the defeat will sting the KXIP players for a long time, it was little more than a limp surrender. After their poor start to the tournament they battled so hard, and overcame the loss of their best batsmen Hashim Amla to national duties, to notch up crucial victories to stay alive in the IPL. Unfortunately the fragility of their side, which had threatened to be exposed earlier, came to the fore in their most crucial game of all against a red-hot opponent also battling for their own survival.
At many stages during this IPL, Kings XI have struggled to deal with the pressure such a high profile tournament places on the players. In most instances, it was the bowlers who folded when asked to defend a score, but on Sunday it was the batsmen who were found wanting when the stakes were raised. It was the big international names who again couldn’t deliver for the visitors, and in particular Guptill and Morgan will be disappointed with their returns this tournament. Both came in with reputations of being two of the best white ball players in the world but they struggled to get going in the 10th anniversary edition of the IPL. Even captain Maxwell never really delivered the telling performance with the bat that many expected when he was elevated to the leadership role. His tournament was one of many cameos, often accompanied by baffling shot selection.
When the men from Mohali look back on their tournament they will accept they needed more from their leaders and senior players in those clutch moments, unfortunately they weren’t able to deliver when it mattered most and the Kings season limped to an embarrassing end.
Updated Date: May 15, 2017 08:08 AM