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Pooran's brilliance and Kings XI's dysfunction

His one-man show threw more light on how the team has rarely found support acts

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
Easy power. Nicholas Pooran has it. And he uses it in such a spell-binding way that everything else fades into the background.
He hits a copybook cover drive. You forget you've left the light on in the kitchen. He extends his defence and the ball goes for six. You scream a bad word in the middle of family dinner. He brings up a 17-ball fifty by playing entirely orthodox cricket. You just sit there with your jaw on the ground.
That is the most stunning thing about Pooran. He plays Test match shots and yet he still holds his own in the T20 arena. The IPL got its first taste of this trick in the game against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
He thumped his first ball through the covers. Sheer timing, and a flexing of a very strong bottom hand. He soared from 28 off 13 to 56 off 19 in the space of an over. The result of three straight sixes that were all about picking up the length early and then that glorious bat swing. It starts high over his head, comes straight down the line and finishes firmly behind his shoulder.
For most of the time Pooran was at the crease, he maintained a strike-rate above 200. And yet he looked like he was playing well within himself. Imagine what could happen if he begins to push himself. Because he will. At only 25, he has time on his side. He also has a rapidly-growing fan club.
Here's his captain KL Rahul: "He's so good to watch and he's batting really really well and I think he did the same thing even last year whenever he got the chance. He's getting better with each game and if you see he's not going out there slogging. He's playing proper cricket shots and hitting them that big."
And now David Warner: "I've always had high prospects of that kid and he's really showing it here with his performances I was fortunate enough to play in Bangladesh with him and I just knew what he's capable of and when he is hitting them that clean, you always have to worry and scratch your head and think what can I do, how can I get him out."
In a strange way though, Pooran's one-man show also typified Kings XI's dysfunction. They have relied on individual brilliance all season. Their only victory in six matches so far was thanks to Rahul making the highest score by an Indian in IPL history. How often is that going to happen? How many times can you bank on one man making 132 in a T20 game?
Before that, Agarwal dragged a failing innings against Delhi Capitals to a Super Over, scoring 51 runs all by himself in the last four overs. You revel in a game like that and then get down to work on how to get a team performance. But Kings XI just can't find the thing that makes them click.
On Thursday, they wanted to play Chris Gayle but food poisoning ruled him out. Neverthless, there were three other changes, which left them with six proper batsmen, four No. 11s and Mohammed Shami. Kings XI must have hoped that packing the bowling with powerplay specialists like Sheldon Cottrell and Mujeeb Ur Rahman would enable them to bring down David Warner and Jonny Bairstow early, leaving them favourites against a misfiring Sunrisers middle order. But the execution was so poor they had to wait 16 overs for their first wicket.
The batting has issues too. A line-up with Rahul, Agarwal, Pooran and Maxwell should be going into each game as if it's a six-hitting contest. But that's not been possible because one of them is averaging 18.5 since the 2015 IPL. That's 53 innings. Two fifties. Maxwell may well have lost his place in Dubai had Gayle been fit. It must be frustrating. Kings XI are in a place where their match-winners are unable to break free because they also have to paper the holes in their team. They're essentially playing this IPL with one hand tied behind their back.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo