A machine gun looks very dangerous and intimidating, but if it is filled with blanks instead of real bullets, it is useless. Kings XI Punjab seems to be that machine gun. With many big names in their squad, they look very intimidating on paper. On the field, however, it is a different story altogether.
Invited to bat first by Royal Challengers Banglore, KXIP might not have imagined what was awaiting them. K L Rahul started the innings in the fifth gear. He hit the bowlers all across the park. Mayank Agarwal looked a bit rusty. But anyhow, the scorecard read a decent 32 runs after 3 overs. Any team would love to see that and imagine the trajectory ahead would be fruitful. Well, not Punjab.
Umesh Yadav didn't only come in to bowl his second over, but also to highlight how vulnerable Punjab's batting could get. He first got rid of out-of-form Mayank Agarwal, who has been a non-performer for a while, and he failed in the previous match as well. Interestingly, Agarwal has been failing at a higher level even as his performance in the domestic circuit has be exceptionally good.
Aaron Finch scored a golden duck – dismikssed LBW by Umesh Yadav on the very first ball. And that was understandable as Finch had just joined the team and had no match practice. He met the same fate as Glenn Maxwell. It was clear that he was out of touch. He will have to prove with worth for the team in the next game he plays.
After Finch got out, Yuvraj Singh came in to bat. Who knows this format of the game better than Yuvraj? But he seemed in no mood to live up to the expectation. He pulled the first ball he faced, a short-pitch by Yadav, and was lucky that the fielder was not at the boundary line, or Yuvraj too would have had a duck against his name. That was a very clumsy and risky shot to play by a batsman who has made a name for himself by winning matches single-handedly. Later, Yadav bowled another gem and Yuvraj was beaten hands down: Clean bowled! His game did not reflect the amount of experience he had: It was a no-brainer that one needed to be cautious in the over than had already seen Umesh Yadav picking two wickets. Where was his sense of responsibility? Yuvraj was someone his team had been looking up to, and he failed.
Karun Nair, too, could have done more for Punjab. He brings in a lot of T20 experience and has played a lot under pressure. But after the fall of three wickets, Nair couldn't handle the pressure. He ended up wasting too many deliveries and inflicted more pressure on himself. He scored 29. Marcus Stonnis was the next one to fail, and in doing so he made everyone wonder why he was in the team? He failed as a batsman and was not used as a bowler; why even have him in the team? If Stonnis was not to be used as a bowler, why was David Miller not played instead? Chris Gayle could have been on the team, too. The KXIP team management needs to do a lot of thinking.
Captain R Ashwin chipped in and scored a handy thirty to save his team some face. But after him, the tail-enders lived up to their name and made sure Punjab did not play their full quota of 20 overs. Here's a thing: In the short format, if a team batting first fails to play its full quota of overs, it cannot expect its bowlers to win the game for it. That’s basic. Play full 20 overs, score enough to give the bowlers something to defend. KXIP was bundled out for 155 in 19.2 overs.
Abysmal batting was followed by sensational bowling start. Axar Patel got rid of Brendon McCullum on the second ball of RCB innings: A Golden Duck for McCullum. Despite the batsmen failing, bowlers had a better start. It was that moment when Ashwin could have proved his mettle as a captain. Despite getting a wicket and having a new batsman on the crease, Ashwin didn't go for an attacking field. He let Virat Kohli and Quinton De Kock settle down.
After Kohli was dismissed, AB deVilliers was not put under pressure. Ashwin, being a bowler himself, failed to rotate the bowling in sync with the essence of the game. He dismissed de Kock and Sarfaraz Khan on consecutive deliveries, but then Mandeep Singh and ABD were not attacked at all. The field was defensive. There was no attempt to stop the singles. RCB was chasing a sub-par total. KXIP could not have let them score easy singles.
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Mohit Sharma appeared to be the worst of all the bowlers. He failed to pick wickets and leaked runs as if he had 300 to defend. For a bowler with his kind of experience, and someone who is there to bowl in the death over, leaking 13 runs an over is preposterous. He is not in the team only to bowl, but also to advise the youngsters. His failure on the field proved costly for Punjab.
RCB got a home win. Punjab let them win by failing in all departments of the game. There is still a long way to go in the tournament, but Punjab will need do some serious thinking about the playing 11.