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IPL 2014: Mitchell Johnson should lead Kings XI Punjab’s bowling fortunes

Mitchell Johnson has not been able to duplicate the form he showed for the Mumbai Indians © IANS
Mitchell Johnson has not been able to replicate the form he showed for the Mumbai Indians in 2013 © IANS

Kings XI Punjab’s bowling worries have been eclipsed by some thrilling batting. They need Mitchell Johnson to lead from the front, says Nishad Pai Vaidya.

It’s been the Glenn Maxwell and David Miller show so far for the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) at the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014. In the face of two big totals, their thunderous batting has taken Punjab home with consummate ease, leaving the opposition shell-shocked. With all the focus on their heroics at the IPL so far, many have overlooked Punjab’s bowling, a department that has struggled to take wickets, and has also been expensive in both games. Totals of 206 and 191 do not bode well early in the season and it is time they make amends.

So far, Akshar Patel, the left-arm spinner has been the best bowler for Punjab. Against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), he did concede 34 in his four overs, but was relatively better when compared to his teammates. In the second game, he performed even better, taking a wicket and going for only 22 in his four overs. Punjab have shown more faith in him at this stage than Rishi Dhawan, one of the best performers in domestic cricket. And what stands out, is that George Bailey isn’t afraid to toss the ball to him early in the innings and take the pace off the ball.

Leading up to this season, Mitchell Johnson was one of the most high-profile buys and Mumbai Indians (MI) erred in not retaining him. As a result, Punjab picked him at the auction with the hope that he would terrorise batsmen with his pace. So far, he hasn’t had a very good time as he went for 47 in the first game of the tournament. He did bounce back a touch by picking one wicket and going for only 29 in the second. Needless to say, Punjab would depend on him to dent the opposition. Perhaps he is still recovering from the injury which kept him out of the ICC World T20 2014. Once he is at full tilt, Punjab can expect some serious performances.

However, their worries mainly hover around the others. Both Lakshmipathy Balaji and Parvinder Awana have gone at over ten an over in both games. Here are two proven wicket-takers and so far they have failed to stem the flow of runs. Balaji is someone who bowls with variations and has boasted of a good economy rate when on song. During Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) victory in 2012, Balaji did not pick up too many wickets but held it tight and built pressure for the others. His role in the side could be that here as well.

For wickets, they have Johnson and Patel, and Bailey would also want Awana to come to the fray. Awana had a good season in 2012 and picked up wickets with his raw pace. He has certain deliveries that can surprise batsmen. His performance has been dismal so far, and he desperately needs to lift his game to give the Punjab bowling attack the punch they need by combining with Johnson.

This year, Punjab look seriously strong with a host of international stars. So far, their batting has been inspired by two men who are unaware of the concept of fear. A similar revival is needed in the bowling and who else but Johnson could provide that.

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(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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