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Feature

Bowlers a letdown as Punjab Kings miss out on playoffs yet again

Despite some impressive performances from the uncapped domestic batters, the team failed to put together a meaningful run

Abhimanyu Bose
20-May-2023

Where they finished

Position on table: Eighth, with 12 points
Wins: Six
Losses: Eight
Punjab Kings started the season yet again with a new coach and captain, and yet again, they failed to make the top four. They were in contention to make it to the playoffs - a stage they haven't reached since 2014 - till the last round of games in the league phase, but still finished third from bottom in a highly competitive season. Kings didn't exactly fall into a slump, not losing more than two games in a row at any point in the season, but they never went on a strong run either as they failed to win more than two on the trot.

The good - Uncapped domestic batters impress

This was Prabhsimran Singh's fifth season with Kings, but the first one where he has played more than two games. The 22-year-old wicketkeeper-batter went on to score 358 runs from 14 games in the season at a strike rate of 150.42, behind only Shikhar Dhawan among the Kings batters. He scored a crucial half-century early in the season, and scored a couple of forties before hitting a match-winning hundred against Delhi Capitals.
Jitesh Sharma, another wicketkeeper-batter, had impressed down the order last year and he continued to impose himself on the finisher's role, scoring 309 runs at a strike rate of 156.06 while batting at No. 5 or lower for the majority of the season.

The bad - Bairstow missed, bowling goes flat

Jonny Bairstow, who was recovering from a broken leg caused by a freak golfing accident, was not given an NOC by the ECB to participate in IPL 2023. Arguably their most destructive batter, he was a big miss for Kings.
In his absence, Kings switched between his replacement, Matthew Short, and Bhanuka Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa could not recreate his form from last season and Short had a few good starts but could not impose himself, scoring just 117 runs in six games.
Sikandar Raza played seven games, but was largely used very low in the batting order, even as he scored 139 runs in seven matches at a strike rate of 141.83.
Liam Livingstone, another one of Kings' marquee English batters, missed the Kings' first six games as he struggled with fitness at the start of the season.
Kings would also feel that their strike bowlers did not quite live up to their potential. Arshdeep Singh picked 17 wickets, but was quite expensive. His economy rate of 9.69 is his highest in all seasons except 2019, when he played just three games and had an economy of 10.90.
Kagiso Rabada, who would have been expected to lead their attack, played just six games and could only return seven wickets and had his worst IPL season, with an economy rate of 10.08. He often found himself on the bench, with Nathan Ellis picked over him.
Harpreet Brar and Rahul Chahar were economical, but the former often found himself under-bowled.

Top performer: Jitesh Sharma

Jitesh continued his ascendancy in the IPL with another season of shining as a finisher. While Jitesh did not score a half-century, he played high-impact innings, including a seven-ball 25 in Kings' win against Mumbai Indians. In the reverse fixture against Mumbai, Jitesh made an unbeaten 49 off 27, his highest score of the season. He finished off the season with a 28-ball 44 against Rajasthan Royals, even as Kings fell to a late defeat.
At a time when lower-order hitters are a valued commodity, Jitesh's star is on the rise and it won't come as a surprise if he gets an India call-up soon.

The highlights

Kings became the first team to score 200 or more in four consecutive matches. They scored 214 against Mumbai Indians, 201 against Lucknow Super Giants and Chennai Super Kings and then 214 against Mumbai again.

Poll

Did Shikhar Dhawan make the best use of his resources as captain?
5.7K votes
Yes, it just did not work out for Punjab Kings
No, he could have made better calls

Abhimanyu Bose is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo