Stubborn approach drags Kings XI to rock-bottom
There were 11 fifties scored by five Kings XI batsmen, two overseas and three Indians, last IPL. There were two centurions, too: Virender Sehwag and Wriddhiman Saha. This season there have been just five fifties - by three overseas players. There were six bowlers who got wickets in double-digits last season. This season only Anureet Singh, Axar Patel and Sandeep Sharma have managed to get 10-plus wickets.
Kings XI's victorious run to the final last season was the story of the IPL. They remained the story of this IPL, too, but the plot was different: how did they manage the fast slide from runners-up to rock-bottom?
There was a sameness to Kings XI's approach this season, at times bordering on the tiring. Even Sanjay Bangar, their coach, finally admitted that the team was glued to the strategies used last season. Such stubbornness only proved to be calamitous.
Even as hard-hitting openers like Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and Robin Uthappa were making bold statements, the experienced Kings XI opening pair of Sehwag and M Vijay failed to adapt to the demands of the fast-paced format. Take out David Miller, and to an extent George Bailey, and the middle order was as weighty as candyfloss.
Even the bowling, which was penetrative and diverse last year, was miserable. Although the Indian trio of Anureet, Sandeep and Axar strived, they seemed stretched by the inability of Mitchell Johnson to provide the momentum. Johnson probably was stretched and tired himself and might have guarded against trying too hard keeping the Ashes in mind.
Rajasthan Royals raised 191 in the afternoon heat at Motera. Kings XI needed two runs per ball at the halfway stage. It became 14 off the last over from James Faulkner. With five needed for a victory from the final ball, Axar Patel hit a four to tie the match. Shaun Marsh, the top-scorer in the chase with 65, hit three fours in a row against Morris, who had got Miller first ball of the one-over eliminator. Johnson bowled a tight line to get rid of Shane Watson and then Faulkner was run out to clinch the thriller.
Before they were dismissed for 88 against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kings XI were the only team to have played all eight IPLs and never been bowled out for less than 100. That 88 is the lowest total this season. Another record that will not be erased soon: seven batsmen were bowled, the highest ever for that mode of dismissal in an IPL innings.
Top of the class
David Miller is the only player to have scored 1000 runs for Kings XI since 2012. He is their second-highest run-getter overall after Shaun Marsh. Miller has made a 50-plus score four times at a strike-rate of at least 200 and is the only player to do so in IPL history. It remains a mystery as to why he was never promoted up the batting order.
Royal Challengers pushed AB de Villiers to No. 3 knowing very well that if he lasted for more than five overs he could create mayhem. Yet Miller walked in at No. 5, mostly to rebuild and repair the irreparable damage caused due to the collapsed of the preceding batsmen. Still the South African managed to finish as the best batsman with two fifties, the second of which was a late flourish that nearly shocked Sunrisers Hyderabad in a high-scoring chase that Kings XI lost by five runs.
Virender Sehwag, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson were consistent failures. All three men had important roles to perform: Sehwag had to provide robust starts, Maxwell was entrusted with providing the aggression in the middle and his inimitable dashing cameos at the end, while Johnson was supposed to instil doubt and fear in the batsmen. All three failed badly.
Tip for 2016
Find a quality top-order batsman and a good spinner, preferably a legspinner. If anything, the downfall would have taught Kings XI that while reaching the top is difficult, it is harder to stay at the top.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo