Kings XI Punjab bowling has been inconsistent. Twice they reduced the opposition to below par score, but they have also been hammered by the opposition in other matches © IANS
Kings XI Punjab bowling has been inconsistent. Twice they reduced the opposition to below par score, but they have also been hammered by the opposition in other matches © IANS

 

Kings XI Punjab stumbled to their first defeat in the Indian premier League (IPL) 2014. R Vishal feels, it’s too early to panic but Punjab do have some loose ends to tie.

 

After a rollicking start to the Indian Premier League (IPL), coasting to five consecutive wins, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) were brought back to earth by Mumbai Indians (MI) inflicting their first loss of the tournament. While there is no cause for alarming scrutinising at the moment, Punjab need to aim for a greater balance to ensure that they combat the challenges they will face in conditions that are merciless for bowlers.

 

For the third time in the tournament a team sailed past 150 against Punjab — the other victories ironically involved the bowlers coming together and restricting the opposition to an under par score. All eyes were on Mitchell Johnson after becoming the toast of the cricketing world since the turn of the year. While the Australian’s thunderbolts have had batsmen taking rearguard action from time to time, Johnson doesn’t look the same prospect while bowling on wickets that offers little purchase. Being asked to bowl the crucial 19th over of the game against Mumbai, Johnson’s half-volleys were creamed to the stands by Kieron Pollard and thereby lost them the match.

 

Johnson’s blow hot-blow cold form in the IPL so far has been masked by the batsmen — Glenn Maxwell in particular and the Indian contingent’s steady displays. Swing bowler Sandeep Sharma has been a revelation while Akshar Patel, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Rishi Dhawan have all chipped in and been amongst the wickets. While Akshar is a rank newcomer, Dhawan is at best a useful support bowler. Balaji has impressed in patches in all the three franchises that he has played so far and supports a main strike bowler well. Balaji’s medium-pacers are going to be ineffective on flatter wickets and might me targeted by the batsmen for runs. Throughout the Ashes and the 2-1 series win in South Africa, Australia’s bowling attack steamed in with Johnson as the lynchpin. The Johnson of old lacked the confidence and personality to lead an attack, the new and improved alter ego, sporting a handlebar moustache has bulldozed his way into batting line-ups. Out of the six games so far, it’s the erratic and unpredictable Johnson that has been on display.

 

The opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara have failed to make an impression so far.  While Sehwag is still on a pursuit to recreate his famed hand-eye coordination that blunted attacks not so long ago, India’s Test specialist Pujara has looked ill at ease in this format. Apart from his scintillating unbeaten 51 that came off 19 balls against Rajasthan Royals, David Miller’s finishing needs greater consistency. Skipper George Bailey has come a cropper in all the games and desperately needs an innings of note. Bailey and Miller are undoubtedly match-winners who can take the game away in a matter of few balls.

 

It could also do with the fact that Maxwell has been there to blow teams out of water on three consecutive occasions. The most successful teams in the IPL, like Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians or to a lesser degree Rajasthan Royals have been a lot more than just a few individuals. Maxwell will be an asset in any team in Twenty20 (T20s) but for Punjab to go far or win the tournament, which they so crave, the local and the international stars have to aim for a cohesive display.

 

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(R Vishal is a journalist and alumni of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)