IPL 2019 team review: Sense of déjà vu for beleaguered Kings XI Punjab
R Ashwin's captaincy was not on point. (BCCI Image)

This could very well have been Kings XI Punjab‘s best IPL season. At least, the way everything worked out for them in the first half of the tournament. Instead, it turned out to be just like any other, one full of squandered opportunities which led them to a sixth-place finish with 12 points from 14 matches. If the pattern is to be followed carefully, KXIP’s campaign this season drew plenty of parallels to last year, which saw the franchise slip after a promising start.

How you ask? Well started strong with four wins from their first six games. But just when everything looked hunky-dory, KXIP slipped, to an extent that there was hardly any scope left to come back. In their next seven games, KXIP won just one and were left behind the race for the Playoffs. KXIP managed to save face by winning the final league game against Chennai Super Kings, the first team to make it to the Final four, the only upside being the prevention of the wooden spoon.

Following their ouster, R Ashwin, their captain had stressed how one of their major let-downs were the Powerplay, with both bat and ball. But the issues go a lot deeper.

IPL 2019 record: Played 14, Won 6, Lost 8

High Point

Sam Curran is thrilled after his hat-trick. (BCCI Image)

KXIP’s inspiring start. They began their campaign with a 14-run win against Rajasthan Royals which saw them defend 185 from a point when the Royals seemed to be cruising. Ashwin Mankaded Jos Buttler and the wheels came off, with the final seven batsmen adding just 22 runs between themselves. Also, the manner in which they beat the Delhi Capitals was no less than a miraculous effort. With seven wickets in hand and needed 23 off 21, it was the Capitals’ game, just that KXIP made it theirs with an incredible turnaround. The next 17 balls produced a jaw-dropping seven wickets and eight runs, with Sam Curran‘s hat-trick sealing a remarkable win for KXIP. (ALSO READ: Muddled selection, poor captaincy, lack of bowling hurt KKR)

Low Point

What transpired after that. When you slump to six defeats out of seven matches, you’re left to play catch up. But in case for KXIP, even playing catch-up was a distant reality. In crucial matches, there were inexcusable drops, misfields and overall sloppiness. KXIP handed Royal Challengers Bangalore their first win of the season after six consecutive defeats. That itself was a red signal for the team. To make matters worse, KXIP lost six away games on the trot. Of the eight matches they lost, not one was a narrow defeat. Gradually, everything fell out of place for KXIP and they were the knocked out in their penultimate contest against Kolkata Knight Riders

Captaincy Verdict

A lot more was expected out of R Ashwin and his captaincy. (AFP Image)

While Ashwin’s personal form was better than most, there is still before Ashwin’s leadership skills are in the same bracket as an MS Dhoni or a Steve Smith. Ashwin realised early the importance of a sixth bowling option in the tournament but never persisted with it. Hence, everytime a bowler bled runs, KXIP had no one to fill in. Also, his decision to bowl Arshdeep Singh over Mohammed Shami in the Powerplay against Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Jonny Bairstow and David Warner was baffling. As was giving Sarfaraz Khan the final over and not Curran the final over against RCB, considering the England allrounder already had picked up a hat-trick. For motivating his team in the first phase to looking jaded towards the end, a lot more was expected of Ashwin than his eventual outcome.

Most valuable player

KL Rahul was the leading run-scorer for Kings XI Punjab with almost 600 runs. (BCCI Image)

It’s tough to pick between KL Rahul and Chris Gayle, but if you have to, it has to be the India opener. Rahul had a fantastic IPL, and even though at times he batted slow towards the beginning, he made amends by cutting lose towards the end. Rahul finished with 593 runs at an average of 53.90, strike rate above 135, with a century and six fifties. Kept away from the Indian national team due to reasons outside of cricket, the season must have meant a lot to Rahul, and a second fruitful IPL season promises to have dispelled whatever little self-doubts he had, sending an indication that he’s gunning for the World Cup.

Major disappointment

The man who’s almost become a synonym with KXIP, David Miller had a pretty ordinary season, scoring 213 runs from 10 matches with just one half-century before being dropped. Miller’s knack of getting a move on deceived him this year and he was more of an onlooker in KXIP’s middle over than his usual role of the aggressor. The games in which Miller did score, KXIP lost those as well. A couple of 40s against Royals and Capitals, Miller could not convert his starts. A player with Miller’s class and experience could have benefitted KXIP big time but his performances remained quite low-key.

Verdict

KXIP were bogged down by their inability to close out matches and seize the key moments. Overdependence of certain players was visible. KXIP remained perhaps the only side where there was no emerging youngster, nor did they possess the reliability of someone who’d show the willingness to take responsibility.

Barring the reliable names, the rest of KXIP’s players fizzled. Gayle (490 runs from 13 games) supported Rahul well at the top, with Mayank Agarwal being the next best performer, scoring 322 runs. The rest however, simply were unreliable. Young Sarfaraz began the season on a bright note scoring an unbeaten 46 and a half-century against CSK but for reasons unknown, wasn’t picked for the final few matches. It was a season of plenty of misses and bare minimum hits.

Statistics

Mohammed Shami proved his fitness with 19 wickets in the season. (BCCI Image)

Most runs: KL Rahul – 593 at 53.90, Strike-rate in excess of 135, Half-centuries 6 and one hundred.

Most wickets: Mohammed Shami – 19 at 24.68, Economy rate 8.68, Best figures of 3 for 21.

Highest individual scoreKL Rahul 100 not out against Mumbai Indians