With the Indian T20 League entering its third week and every team finishing at least five of their matches, it is Team Punjab (KXIP) who have come out the worst of the lot. After losing matches on the trot, KXIP are reeling at the bottom part of the table.
However, a closer look at their squad and one would feel pity given the sheer vicissitudes of fortunes they have experienced despite approaching IPL 2020 as a strong contender. The last time the IPL was held in UAE, KXIP had reached the tournament final with Glenn Maxwell being named the ‘Player of the Series”.
Quite shockingly, Punjab is encountering a similar dichotomy this season as well. Though they have lost four of their last five matches, two of the five players leading the race for the orange cap are KXIP’s KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. In fact, from Virender Sehwag to David Miller to Glenn Maxwell, Team Punjab has hardly been bereft of talents throughout IPL’s history, but the title has still evaded them.
THEIR STRENGTH IS THEIR WEAKNESS
Since breaking into the scene with RCB back in 2016, KL Rahul has hardly had an underwhelming IPL. Returning from his injury with KXIP in 2018, KL Rahul tallied a mammoth 659 runs that season and followed it with 593 runs in 2019. Five matches in this season and the batsman has already scored 302, topping all other batsmen in IPL.
However, KXIP’s biggest strength is also their Achilles heel. Behind Rahul’s mesmerizing timing and prolific run-scoring abilities is hidden his slow start to KXIP innings, which has cost them more matches than anything. Though Rahul’s unhurried momentum is negated by an in-form Mayank Agarwal to some extent, it has evidently not been enough.
While Rahul leading the charge from the front might be lionized by all Punjab fans, having him lead the team at such a high level is almost criminal. Having Anil Kumble as the coach in the world’s most ruthless T20 tournament further spoils Punjab’s cause as well.
There are more than one way to win IPL and MI, CSK, KKR and SRH have all proved it over time, and the one common element that bound them together is their trust in players over a period of time. Punjab has hardly given their players a long rope, and the best example of that is Chris Jordan. One of the finest limited-overs bowlers in world cricket, Jordan has been handed just two matches in IPL 2020 so far, because he hasn’t been spitting fire right from the word go.
The only other team to have resorted to relentless hacking and chopping is RCB and they are an equal failure in IPL like Punjab. Right team selection has also been an issue for KXIP and the absence of Chris Gayle in their starting line-up points to that.
BOWLERS LACKING BITE
One of the primary inadequacies that Punjab has always suffered from – since the beginning of the IPL – has been their mentality. Despite having some of the stalwarts of T20 cricket in their squad, Punjab’s repeated failures could very much be attributed to their lack of winning mindset. And their bowling department symbolizes this psychological block better than anything else.
Mohammed Shami sits sixth in IPL 2020’s purple cap race with eight wickets so far, which says that Punjab’s bowling firepower is unquestionably potent but largely predictable. Whether it be Marcus Stoinis in their tournament opener against SRH, Rajasthan’s Rahul Tewatia, Mumbai’s Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard or more recently, CSK’s Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis, KXIP bowlers have been found out time and again.
Even a layman knows that Punjab’s best bowler Shami first pitches the ball up, following it with a yorker and eventually a bouncer, and a decent hard hitter will take him to the stands almost at will. The fact that Shami has been limited to just 11 T20Is in the national team should speak for itself, but the KXIP management has chosen to look the other way.
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