Kings XI Punjab and the 'line' seems to go hand-in-hand at the 2019 IPL. First, it was the Jos Buttler run-out on Monday, and after their 28-run loss to Kolkata Knight Riders, the head coach Mike Hesson spoke of the 'fine lines' they missed at Eden Gardens. The lapse in concentration that led to Andre Russell's reprieve in the 17th over, Hesson reckoned, cost his side the match.
Russell, who had been Man of the Match in Knight Riders' opening game as well, was on 3 off five deliveries, when Mohammed Shami bowled a pinpoint yorker on off stump. Russell missed the glance, and the ball crashed into the stumps, much to the joy of the Kings XI players. But that was short-lived, as Kings XI were penalised with a no-ball for having only three fielders inside the circle, after which Russell mauled 44 more runs in the next 12 deliveries, pushing the home side to the highest IPL total posted at Eden Gardens.
"The game changed in the 17th over," Hesson admitted after the game. "I think, we had a plan to Russell that we executed well, and we weren't quite alert enough in the field, and that's where the game changed. It's a fine line when you're bowling to Andre Russell. He's a gamechanger.
"We had a little bit of jubilation and then things turned pretty quickly [with the no-ball]. And then we weren't quite able to turn the last few overs for 12 or 14 runs. Instead, the four [three] overs went for 22 or 24 runs, and the game changed there."
Earlier in the day, Kings XI had handed mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy an IPL debut, one whose start wasn't memorable for the right reasons. He was taken apart for three sixes and a four in a 25-run over - the highest among bowlers delivering their maiden IPL over - but Hesson believed Varun's effort in his next two overs - conceding 10 runs in 12 balls - was commendable. Hesson said that bowling to pinch-hitter Narine (who has a Powerplay strike-rate of 259 in the IPL) wasn't Kings XI's plan, but instead they were trying to attack his partner Chris Lynn. But Lynn took a single off the first ball, and then Varun was forced to face Narine's wrath.
"It wasn't so much Narine. Lynn was on strike at the start of that second over. That was the match-up we were going for," Hesson said. "And then Narine got on strike and you know he was able to take toll.
"Varun's first game, he's nervous like anyone else playing their first game. And I thought the way he came back in the second and third over was excellent. And it will give him and us a lot of confidence. You know, playing your first game in front of a crowd like this is difficult. And obviously, Narine's going to hit from ball one. But I'm still very pleased how he came back. "
As for Kings XI's batting, KL Rahul failed for a second straight game, adding only one run to his first-match score of 4. But overall, Hesson believed that the team has the batting to chase any total put in front of them, especially since the rest of the batsmen have chipped in on different occasions. When asked whether their team was top-heavy with Rahul and Chris Gayle opening the batting, Hesson did not agree.
"I think, in the previous years, you can say that [about our batting], but this year, I don't think that's right," Hesson said. "The first two games we haven't got a huge amount runs from the top, but we've got runs from the top six. Mayank Agarwal, Sarfaraz got runs in the last game. Gayle, Mandeep's played a couple of cameos and obviously, David Miller's come in and played a role.
"I think that statement could be true for Kings XI teams of the past, I don't think it's true now. I think we've got power and ability right through the top six and even deeper."
Hesson also defended his decision to make four changes to the team that had beaten Rajasthan Royals by 14 runs on Monday. With a couple of regular Kings XI players returning from international duty, Hesson believed that the changes were unavoidable to fit them in, forcing Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman to miss out, and also the racey Kolkata surface offered more to a bowler with extra pace.
"Nicholas Pooran was injured so that's a straight swap, since David Miller's a big player for us," Hesson said. "And then on that surface, we felt that someone who can bowl back-of-a-length like Hardus Viljoen instead of Sam Curran was the way to go. And Hardus bowled really nicely, so those were two big changes.
And with Andrew Tye coming back in, being a key player, we had to make a decision on overseas players. That's why Varun Chakravarthy came in instead of Mujeeb."