Kings XI Punjab v Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL 2010, Mohali March 27, 2010

Punjab's Indian stars come a cropper again


This sluggish, lopsided and almost painful to watch Twenty20 affair was summed up in two overs, the last of Kolkata Knight Riders' innings, which transformed the game, and the sixth of Kings XI Punjab's reply.

Punjab began that fateful final over well, conceding a single and picking a wicket, but Irfan Pathan bled runs off the remaining balls. Later in the night, having just taken Ajit Agarkar - in his come-back over - for four and six in two deliveries to get the asking-rate under control, Yuvraj Singh failed to curb his enthusiasm and slogged one high into the sky. When it finally came down, it landed in the outstretched hands of an athletic Manoj Tiwary, who covered ground and never lost sight of the ball to pull off a cracker. Those two overs summed up Punjab's plight this season and will no doubt return to haunt them if their campaign continues to remain so woefully inept. Their two most experienced Indian players just haven't hit a rhythm with their primary tasks.

A total of 162 for 4 from 19 overs was decent, but it wasn't daunting. Then Tiwary larruped Irfan's last four deliveries for 20 runs and lifted the run-rate by nearly one an over. With the batsmen ready to swing at whatever came their way, spin was not an option for Kumar Sangakkara, but was Irfan the right man for the job? His three overs had cost 21 runs for one wicket, and Shalabh Srivastava, who had 2 for 23 from three overs, was the alternative. As it transpired, Sangakkara's decision proved unsuccessful, but he should have seen what was coming.

Irfan came into this match with a bowling average of 47.66 and an economy rate of 8.66. He had taken three wickets in five games. A vital player for Punjab, given his all-round ability, he had been floundering in his main occupation. Given his descent as a bowler in the last few years, his lack of penetration must have come as no surprise. Irfan was once again the trundler that fans have now grown accustomed to. There was no pace and Tiwary slapped the short ball for a flat six; a full and wide delivery was drilled past cover; an even fuller ball disappeared back over Irfan's head for a maximum; the last one was so predictable that Tiwary was already hanging on the back foot to get four more.

An innings that had begun in rampant fashion with Brett Lee being flayed for 19 runs ended on a similar note. Irfan's body language said it all as he walked off the field. He had again failed to deliver as a bowler. Like Yuvraj with the bat this season, Irfan's failure as a bowler capable of striking with the new ball and at the death has really hurt this team. Unlike in Test cricket, where you can have a poor session, or 50-over cricket, where you can go for a few runs in the Powerplays before staging a comeback, Twenty20 is merciless. A couple of bad overs and the game slides out of reach. Irfan had four bad deliveries and that made a big difference in the ultimate result.

When Agarkar began the sixth over of Punjab's reply, he was holding a cricket ball for the first time on an IPL field this season. His first ball was on the pads but Yuvraj, who had boldly decided to open, missed out. The next two deliveries were vintage Yuvraj, and hinted that he was finally going to roar and that Agarkar, much to the delight of many a sceptic, was proving to be cannon fodder. Those two brute shots from Yuvraj had all but leveled the asking-rate. But yet again, one of Punjab's vital players chose to disappoint. Impetuosity got the better of Yuvraj and he couldn't resist going for another six. The steepler went up into the night and it was that man Tiwary who was in the thick of things again.

The team's top batsman had been dismissed and with that the chase fizzled out. Yuvraj's poor form is directly linked to Punjab's failings. Today he appeared clueless against Shane Bond, beating beaten by pace, and edging outside off a few times. He saw Agarkar come on and thought he had an escape route, but it didn't work out. Given the dead nature of the Mohali pitch, Sangakkara would have expected his batsmen to make a fist of this chase. Instead, Bond began with a one-run first over in which he sent back Ravi Bopara, and then Yuvraj lost it once again. That wicket set in motion one of the ugliest chases in the IPL, with all the batsmen playing well below their best. This was a match that Punjab could have won, and they will look back regretfully at another damning passage of play where they simply refused to go forward. At the fall of the third wicket, Sangakkara was joined by Mahela Jayawardene and the Sri Lankan duo stitched together 34 runs in six overs, allowing the asking rate to go past 15.

Punjab's campaign is yet to take off and the wheels are already coming off rapidly. Given the way their two best Indian players failed, in the capacity they are most expected to deliver, this loss - their fifth in six games - will hurt a lot more than most. Though Sangakkara tried to put on a brave face by speaking of trying to find the best position for players to bat, and that the only way to go was up, the downward spiral will only continue unless Yuvraj and Irfan get their act together.

Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bella on March 29, 2010, 0:49 GMT


    it shows the raport the two share, and taht really was very vital for KIXP success in the last 2 years. irfan seems to be unhappy that yuvraj is no more captain and it shows in the way he acts in the feild along with yuvraj himself. they both seem just so away from the team, like they dont care at all...

    irfan himself mentioned how yuvraj and sanga are both different but also said yuvraj could understand 'indian mentality' more... which pretty much means, understand him better. KIXP doesnt seem to be anything close to the team they were. i am so glad sanga is banned for a match, and tehy are against the best team in IPL this year. i think if they do well and win - no matter who the captain may be - it would be an eye oppener for the owners.

    who knows? we may get a better, and normal yuvraj and irfan in teh field.. and happier supporters all over india... hopefully this will be KIXP turnign point in the tournament...

  • bella on March 29, 2010, 0:45 GMT

    i know there are so many here who disagrees with the article. but i think jamie made a really good point on how much KIXP really depends on both irfan and yuvraj to perform for them if they intend on winning. but despite the fact, i still think it is very unfair to not point out that every single player other than these two have not performed at all! yuvraj and irfan, with theron managed to win them the one game they actually won this season. other than that, not a single player performed at any stage of the match, only excluding bopara in a couple of games.

    yuvraj seems disapointed because of the captaincy matter, and irfan seems to agree with the same idea. it is very obvious to me that both of them are close and good friends, and obviously they do not like the idea of havign a different captain. if you watch closely, irfan had somehow been an unofficial vice-captain in the last 2 years, where he talks to yuvraj about their strategies every other over.


  • Bunty on March 28, 2010, 14:20 GMT

    I think main problem of Kingfisher is Yuvraj's heart is not in the team. Preity should have traded Yuvraj last year itself when the decision to remove Yuvraj from captaincy was made. Aussies have been master at it. When a big weight player is stripped of captaincy he is yanked from the team too. Too much baggage to have him around. Plus lack of form of Irfran and Sressanth was a double blow. It will hell of a turn-around from here if Punjab gets to the semi-final. Lee,Yuvraj and Sangakarra need to fire big time or we might see a full scale changes next summer.

  • Sidath on March 28, 2010, 10:55 GMT

    I am a Sri Lankan and I strongly agree that the Indian players shouldn't be totally blamed for this. In fact, no player is performing for Kings XI. The way Sanga and Mahela batted yesterday was disgusting. They played the game as if they don't even care for the team. I also think Mahela should be replaced by Marsh. They earns thousands of dollars that they hardly care about winning or losing.

  • Navendra on March 28, 2010, 10:31 GMT

    Yuvi is a match winner on his day so is Pathan. Unfortunately neither of them along with the other Indian and overseas players have not found their form as yet. I feel that Yuvi should be given back the captaincy. Sanga and Jayawardene should be dropped and give Adrian Barrath a chance and with the return of Lee and Marsh they should do well. No offense for Sanga and Jayawardene they are world class players but just can keep up with this 20/20 format.

  • saichaan on March 28, 2010, 10:28 GMT

    looking frwd to see yuvi back as captain. we have seen how he has carried his team in late IPL in 2009.

  • Amulya on March 28, 2010, 10:18 GMT

    srry to all users........m disagreeying to u all .....and specially jamie...what d hell rubbish comments u hav given on yuvi and irfy......r u mad..? cant u see overseas players bad form....i think dat jayawardane should b replaced by marsh////////and sanga should b replaced by barath........but d captaincy should b given to irfan he took d charge in resent domestic season as a captain....and did very well....he is a fresh minded player ..who always thinks for d team welfare unlike sanga ...d ipl2010 is over for k1Xp but i think dat i dey do like dis dey will suceed in future...and i am really surprised dat why irfan has not been taken in indian squad and after playin 120 odd odi's still he use to b call unexperienced..dats wierd...and u can chek dat d last t20 pathan played for india was against westindies and his bowling figures were at d peak of indian bowlers,......dis says it all....plz i want reply to my comment...if somebody disagrees me..he can temme.! thanku :-)

  • Kapil on March 28, 2010, 9:54 GMT

    Why the hell is Jayawardene getting game after game despite doing nothing for the team. What does punjab expecting him to do? He is not even a player who can turn the games around all by himself. I think punjab should instead go for Marsh. Bopara may be their only batsman in form, but Hopes is a much better option.

    I think biggest mistake KXIP made was making Sangakara the captain. Sangakara's captaincy has not yet benefited the team (except for Jayawardene who has got to play all the games). I think the best line-up for KXIP shall be: Bisla,Marsh,Sangakara,Yuvraj, Hopes(if fit)/Theron,Pathan,Karan Goel, Lee, Chawla, Powar, VRV singh

  • kanas on March 28, 2010, 9:48 GMT

    well sanga totally looks disintrsted in captaining the team,bharath is great talent of carribean watching all this horrors.its almost done for kings.they can go 4 one last try with the un used talent available.uvi looks lot better than the first few matches. sanga's captaincy is sluggish which reflects his batting.. well for kings presently uvi s the best bowler he wasnt used at all in the game..pathan can be more than hady in middle overs with ball...pull in marsh and bharath.. sack jaya for godsake.also sreeshanth shld be in team and shld get his qouta completed well within 13 th over.Leee is jst in and he ll do well 4 sure.they got rusty theron frm no where who can bowl at death cunningly.the 11 shld be marsh,goel,bisla,bharath,yuvi,pathan,sodhi,lee,chawla,theron,sreeshanth...u can bet on this team...either lee or yuvi can captain the side...

  • Aashish on March 28, 2010, 8:45 GMT

    Why are u blaming indian players when overseas players have done nothing.Yuvi and Irfan are the only power hitters in this team, i think load on them is too much.Yuvi is much better captain.I dont knw why sodhi has not played a single game and mahela is playing every game.Kaif is given 3 chances and he has done nothing.

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