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With some of their big names stumbling this season, Kings XI Punjab were rarely serious contenders for a playoff place
May 19, 2013
Where they finishedJust like last season, Kings XI Punjab finished sixth with 16 points and for the third season in a row they were left agonisingly close to a place in the qualifiers. Had they won one more match and ended with 18 points, they too would have been in contention for a place in the playoffs along with Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Traditionally they are poor starters but this season they began with a commanding win. However, they lost their next two matches and followed it with some more inconsistent performances.
What went rightThe overseas players. From the first match, in which Ryan Harris and Azhar Mahmood helped the other bowlers restrict Pune Warriors to 99, to the last, it was the overseas players who first kept them in the top half of the points table, then kept their hopes alive till their penultimate match and then gave them a 50-run win in their last match against the mighty Mumbai Indians in Dharamsala.
Their top three run-scorers, their highest wicket-taker, their 38-year-old allrounder - all foreign players. Ryan Harris did his bit too with an economy of six runs per over from three matches before injuring his heel.
What also worked very well for Kings XI was their pace attack, comprising mainly of Indian bowlers. Sixty-three out of the 77 wickets their bowlers took were through the pacers, a whopping 81.81%. Praveen Kumar's swing fetched him 12 wickets - mostly disturbing the top order, Parvinder Awana struck 15 times in 14 matches - a first or second change bowler breaking partnerships in the middle overs, Mahmood also took 15 with his precise line and length, complementing Kumar with seam options. When changes were made in the pace attack, Sandeep Sharma took eight wickets in four matches, Manpreet Gony took seven and Harmeet Singh chipped in with five wickets in three.
What went wrongOpening partnerships. Whether Mandeep Singh opened with Adam Gilchrist, Shaun Marsh or Luke Pomersbach, the highest he could manage with any of them was 45 with Gilchrist. Their highest opening stand, of 60, was between Gilchrist and Marsh in their penultimate match which came a little too late. An out-of-form captain and an average opening stand of 16.50 at a run-rate of 6.68 means Kings XI will have to buy some specialist openers in next year's auction as Gilchrist won't be there, whether they want him or not.
Kings XI had their problems batting first. They often lost a flurry of wickets in the slog overs and out of the eight matches in which they batted first, they lost eight wickets or more five times - including two all-outs. To add to that, they crossed 150 only thrice in those eight matches, winning all three.
Best playerWhile Mahmood put his heart and soul into his performances, making 196 runs with two fifties and picking 15 wickets (joint highest wicket-taker for Kings XI), the player who changed their batting fortunes along with Marsh was David Miller. After missing their first three games, Miller grabbed everyone's attention with an unbeaten 41-ball 80 to chase 186 in the last over against Pune Warriors. Hungry for more, he helped them chase a modest 121 in the next game and struck another fifty a match after that, but his five sixes weren't enough as they fell short by four runs. In their next match, against Chennai Super Kings, he made sure he finished the chase again with a 25-ball fifty before pulling of perhaps the innings of the season, a belligerent 38-ball hundred against Royal Challengers Bangalore. He finished as the highest run-scorer for Kings XI, and his father's advice of ."if it's in the arc, it's out of the park," was one of the memorable lines of the IPL.
Worst playerSince Gilchrist's performances were waning in the last couple of years, the nucleus of the Kings XI squad was made of other Australian batsmen David Hussey, a T20 veteran, and Marsh. But Hussey, unlike his brother, failed to make a mark this season and was unable to win them a single match. On the field, he was more entertaining during the short stints when he was miked up - providing jokes and insights - than with bat and ball. No fifties, 235 runs at a strike-rate of 112.55 and 11 overs for 91 runs without a wicket sum up a sorry season for a man on whom Kings XI splashed out $1.4million.
Find of the seasonHe played only four games but they were enough for him to make a mark. Just turned 20, Sandeep Sharma's figures of 3 for 21 against Sunrisers Hyderabad added to his achievements at the Under-19 level and the Ranji Trophy. Against Delhi Daredevils, he produced 3 for 23, this time including a maiden, and in their last match picked two more to finish the season on a winning note.
Moment to rememberAfter having a difficult season with the bat, Gilchrist signed-off in style with a first-ball wicket of Harbhajan Singh in the last match - his first wicket in representative cricket - and what followed was a medley of IPL celebrations. As soon as Gurkeerat Singh took the catch, Gilchrist mimicked Chris Gayle and Harbhajan doing the Gangnam step, followed by Kieron Pollard's style of celebration. In the post-match presentation, he said he missed out on Darren Sammy's rock the baby step, but the celebrations didn't seem to lack any enthusiasm.
Recommended for retentionDavid Miller, Shaun Marsh
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Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?