Talking Points from the Chennai Super Kings vs Kings XI Punjab game in Abu Dhabi
Why did the Kings XI leave out Glenn Maxwell?
Maxwell has had a miserable season with the bat for the Kings XI, scoring 108 runs in 11 innings at an average of 15.42 and a strike rate of 101.88. Despite that, he'd played all their matches before today for two reasons. One, he's capable of playing explosive, match-turning knocks; and there are plenty of cases within the IPL of teams being rewarded for sticking with their X-factor players, such as the Mumbai Indians with Kieron Pollard through some lean patches in the past, and, most memorably, the Chennai Super Kings with Shane Watson in 2018. The second reason is that Maxwell has been a valuable contributor with his offspin. Three wickets in eight innings and an economy rate of 8.04 aren't immediately eye-catching, but only two bowlers have been more economical for the Kings XI this season - Ravi Bishnoi and M Ashwin - and Maxwell has bowled five of his 21 overs in the powerplay.
The Kings XI have tended to use Maxwell as a specialist against left-hand batsmen, however, and the Super Kings, who have shelved the experiment of opening with Sam Curran, weren't expected to have any left-handers in their top five. This was probably the biggest reason behind Maxwell's exclusion today.
Another possible reason for including James Neesham, a left-hand batsman, in his stead was because every spinner the Super Kings have used this season turns the ball away from the right-hander. Today, they had two of them in the legspinner Imran Tahir and the left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja. Which brings us to…
… should the Kings XI have promoted Neesham to No. 6?
Those (in the graphic above) are Jadeja's numbers against right- and left-hand batsmen this season. By the time the Kings XI lost Chris Gayle in the 12th over, Jadeja hadn't yet bowled possibly because the left-handed Gayle had been at the crease through all the non-powerplay overs until then. The Kings XI sent in Deepak Hooda at the fall of Gayle's wicket, meaning there were now two right-handers at the crease.
The Super Kings immediately brought Jadeja on, and he proceeded to deliver three back-to-back overs, conceding only 17 runs and no boundaries. He only bowled two balls to left-hand batsmen, both to Neesham, after dismissing Mandeep Singh in his third over.
Could the Kings XI have promoted Neesham above Hooda, knowing Jadeja's record against left-handers? They could have, and either forced the Super Kings to use Jadeja against Neesham or to bring on their quicker bowlers earlier than they may have wanted.
But sending in Hooda at that point also gave him the rare opportunity to play himself in. He faced upwards of 20 balls for only the sixth time in 50 IPL innings, and ended up scoring a brilliant, unbeaten 62 off 30 balls. Hooda showed a particular proficiency in lofting the ball over the covers, and while he didn't play that shot off Jadeja - who largely bowled a middle-and-leg line at him - it's a profitable shot if you can play it against left-arm spin, and perhaps this was also part of the Kings XI's thinking in sending in Hooda ahead of Neesham.
Why did the Kings XI leave out Arshdeep Singh?
Apart from Neesham for Maxwell, the Kings XI made another change by bringing back Mayank Agarwal - who had recovered from the leg injury he sustained against the Delhi Capitals on October 20 - for the left-arm seamer Arshdeep Singh.
They could have made a more like-for-like swap by leaving out either Mandeep or Hooda rather than a bowler to bring in Agarwal, but that might have left them short on the batting front. In the absence of genuine allrounders, teams often have to compromise on either batting or bowling depth, and the Kings XI chose to go with the extra batsman today.
Arshdeep could have been useful, especially in the powerplay during which the Kings XI couldn't separate Faf du Plessis and Ruturaj Gaikwad, but it's possible they could have been defending an even lower total without the presence of the extra batsman.
Why did the third umpire rule Mandeep's low catch off Gaikwad not out?
In the eighth over of the Super Kings' chase, Gaikwad strode forward to drive Ravi Bishnoi, and ended up slicing in the air towards backward point. Mandeep had to dive forward to take the low chance, and the on-field umpire sent a soft signal of out when he referred it to the third umpire.
Replays showed Mandeep catching the ball cleanly with both hands, but his hands appeared to separate when his elbows hit the ground. The ball also seemed to peek between his hands and momentarily touch the ground just before he completed the catch. Going by this, the third umpire Chris Gaffaney interpreted the evidence as being strong enough to overrule the soft signal.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo