A cataclysmic series of tactical shortcomings from the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) against 4-time IPL champions Mumbai Indians (MI) handed them their 3rd defeat of the season, the margin being 48 runs.
Having won the toss, KXIP invited MI into bat, something that sat well with MI skipper Rohit Sharma. KXIP struck early, with Sheldon Cottrell brilliantly seaming the ball away from Quinton de Kock’s outside edge and ratting the sticks. A direct-hit 3 overs later accounted for Suryakumar Yadav, after which Rohit and Ishan Kishan settled in and watched the middle-overs through.
Kishan, unlike last game, failed to accelerate after getting to the 20s. Rohit, though, got to a half-century and took on the bowling in tandem with Kieron Pollard. After Rohit’s departure in the 17th over, Pollard found good company in Hardik Pandya, as the duo slogged their way to get Mumbai Indians to 191, smashing 62 runs in the last three overs in the process.
KXIP, chasing 192, got off to a flier courtesy a flurry of boundaries from Mayank Agarwal. Unfortunately for them, Agarwal did not last long, a fuller length delivery from Bumrah rearranged his stumps in the 5th over. Karun Nair followed next over in the same manner to the orthodox spin of Krunal Pandya.
Just as Nicholas Pooran started to find his groove, he lost his partner, a well-set KL Rahul to a nothing shot off Rahul Chahar. Glenn Maxwell, in at 5, struggled against the leg-spin of Chahar and Krunal Pandya. Once Pooran and Maxwell departed in consecutive overs, the game was up for KXIP. The remaining 5 overs of the game turned out to be mere formalities, as the Mumbai Indians finished with a 48-run win, slowly making their way back into the tournament.
Everything that went wrong with KXIP
The absence of yorker-length deliveries at the death-overs
The Sunrisers Hyderabad bowlers, particularly T Natarajan, produced a masterclass on how to bowl yorkers to batsmen of big-hitting repertoire in the latter stages of the innings two nights ago. Compared to that, we saw a completely contrasting performance from KXIP tonight, with even a bowler of Mohammed Shami’s stature failing to find the blockhole against Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya, going for 19 in his last over as a result. Jimmy Neesham, used as a fifth bowling option by KXIP, had a night to forget as well. His four overs went for 52, 40 off which came off his last two overs bowling to Rohit, Pollard and Hardik.
This was where KXIP missed the services of someone like Chris Jordan, an individual reputed to hit the blockhole length at will, just how they missed him in the game against Rajasthan Royals in which they ended up conceding the highest run-chase of the IPL. Although Jordan went for 56 against the Delhi Capitals, he hasn’t been given a second chance to redeem himself so far this year, something that hasn’t worked for KXIP either.
Cottrell conceded 30 while bowling at the death in the Royals game, so he was given the role of bowling in the powerplay to Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav, ahead of Krishnappa Gowtham, something that we will get to in a bit. Although Cottrell bowled an economic 4-over spell, he could not dismiss any of the top-order batsmen after that peach of a delivery to Quinton de Kock.
The fact that both Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav are prone to being dismissed by in-coming deliveries from left-arm pacers would have worked to Cottrell’s advantage, even more so due to his action; slightly side-armed which helps in swinging the ball back in to right-handers, but he could not use the upper-hand to the best effect.
Completely mis-utilizing Krishnappa Gowtham
When KL Rahul mentioned after the coin toss that Krishnappa Gowtham was re-instated in the XI in place of Murugan Ashwin, our first thought was of him bowling out the majority of his overs within the powerplay, particularly after the performance of the Mumbai Indians top-order batsmen in their last game against Washington Sundar in their previous game. Instead, he was introduced in the attack in the last over of the powerplay against a well-set Rohit Sharma, who carted him for a couple of boundaries in his first over.
He was slightly more successful bowling in the middle stages of the innings though, conceding 8 runs and taking the wicket of Ishan Kishan, but not giving him the additional over in the powerplay or during the middle-stages itself cost the Kings XI Punjab dearly. Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya were metaphorically breathing fire having smashed 37 of the 18th and 19th, and the sight of Gowtham being given the ball to close out the innings only added fuel to their respiratory systems.
Although Hardik could not cash as much as he would have wanted to, managing to clear the ropes once before reluctantly running a single having mistimed a full-toss, Pollard more than made up for it by ensuring the ball didn’t land on the outfield any more for the rest of the innings. Due to no fault of his own, Gowtham’s figures went from 1/20 off 3 overs to 1/45 off 4. Maybe Gowtham could have bowled as slowly as possible in the last over, offering absolutely no pace to the two big-hitters to work with, but one can’t really blame him, he was visibly unprepared for the situation. KL Rahul certainly left a lot to be desired in terms of managing his bowlers today.
Lack of firepower at the top
We know, we know, the duo of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal have been opening the batting for a large part of their careers, they had a mammoth opening partnership in their previous game against the Rajasthan Royals. But, upon close observation, you’d find that it was Mayank who did most of the attacking throughout that partnership and Rahul providing him the support at the other end. Now, in a chase of 192, having both opening batsmen going after the bowling from the outset is a bonus to any chasing side, something that veteran Caribbean opener Chris Gayle could have provided to the Punjab-based franchise.
Instead, they could have given the role to the guy who was playing in place of Gayle, and has been batting at number 4, Nicholas Pooran. Now, we know that he has an average of 17 against left-arm pacers, which would have made him susceptible to Trent Boult, but then again, the IPL, or any form of Cricket is not played on a statistical database like a board game, it is played on an actual Cricket field by 22 individuals. As long as Pooran isn’t given the license to play his natural game opening the batting, we would not know whether he’d succeed or not.
Exposing Glenn Maxwell to Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya
Even that ponytailed guy in the Cricbuzz advertisement featuring Harsha Bhogle has learned that left-handed batsmen have an advantage over leg-spinners. Now, the guy might not be an avid watcher of the sport, given how he clung on to the piece of information throughout the ad, and his friend enquiring him later on as to how he acquired the said information, but he will do a better job than the Kings XI Punjab think-tank in preserving the tactic in his mind.
If the shot KL Rahul played which resulted in his dismissal was not atrocious enough, the sight of Glenn Maxwell walking out to face the 5 remaining leg-spinning deliveries from Rahul Chahar would have made the keen, knowledgeable Cricket viewers aware of Maxwell’s struggles against deliveries spinning away from outside off stump turn their television off, and the viewers who watch Cricket just for entertainment purposes very disappointed after what transpired.
Jimmy Neesham, the Kiwi left-hander, had the perfect opportunity to make a difference in those overs and redeem the bad day that he had with ball in hand. He could have made a major difference in the two remaining overs of Rahul Chahar, who does not bowl the googly too often, and the one over of Krunal Pandya, who fell prey against the ploy of a lower-order left-hand-bat being promoted up the order in the very first game of this year’s IPL. Unfortunately, the Kings XI Punjab dugout went with reputation over tactics, as a result, the target got a lot bigger on them in the course of the 18 balls that Maxwell faced.
Sarfaraz Khan at KXIP v MI=Nikhil Naik at KKR v MI
*Insert Spidermen pointing at each other meme here*
Alike Nikhil Naik, Sarfaraz does not keep wicket. Alike Naik, Sarfaraz does not contribute with the ball. But unlike Naik, Sarfaraz is a much more complete batsman. He definitely has the temperament to stay in the middle for as long as his team needs him to, something that we have witnessed quite a lot in the longest format in domestic Cricket, especially in the previous season, and he has shown us his finishing skills on a few instances during his tenure at RCB.
Instead of accommodating someone like Karun Nair to play anchor at number 4, why not give Sarfaraz a crack at the same role? Krishnappa Gowtham is a decent enough batsman to bat at number 7, which would have helped KXIP fit another prominent bowling option to their arsenal, something that KL Rahul also stressed upon in the post-match presentation. Having someone like Sarfaraz bat at 7 will only hamper his performance and prevent the team from having a productive resource to work with.