KXIP Succumb To The Second Half Of The Syndrome > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - KXIP succumb to second-half syndrome

KL Rahul and Gayle had to do the bulk of the scoring and the the Indian contingent did not shoulder much responsibility in the middle-order

It was down to a mere 0.828. Yes, that's by how much Kings XI Punjab missed out on a play-off spot on net run rate in their IPL 2019 campaign. It's tough to come to terms with the fact that they could win only two of their last eight games of the season. In fact, all they needed to advance was one more win in the last five games.

"Even if you look at the table right now... we could have given ourselves a good chance if we closed down games," said Ravichandran Ashwin with a smile on his face after his side's final game of the season.

In most of their losses, Punjab actually had a great chance of winning, but just threw games away without being able to handle situations under pressure. Their inexplicable choke against Chennai Super Kings - KL Rahul and Sarfaraz Khan had shared a 110-run stand for the third wicket at Chepauk and KXIP needed only 70 runs in 8 overs with 8 wickets - and their unfathomable show against RCB at the Chinnaswamy - they were 101/1 in 9 overs chasing 203 but lost their way - are two great examples to showcase where they were lacking.

Eventually, they lost four on the trot to dig themselves into a big hole towards the business end of the tournament, needing to win their last two to advance. They failed.

What worked for them?

Rahul made 593 runs to finish as the side's highest run-getter, while Chris Gayle came second with 490 runs. Rahul recorded six fifties and a hundred in the season, while Gayle registered four fifties. It was mostly a case of one ensuring the scoreboard moved even if they failed as a duo.

Mohammed Shami's rhythm was so good to watch. He's gotten leaner, fitter, the pace is there and he also executed his variations pretty well to finish as the side's leading wicket-taker with 19 wickets.

Another positive for the side was the captain's bowling. He tried leg spin last season and changed to his normal style midway, but he stuck to what works best for him - bowling off-spin and mixing it with the variety he had up his sleeve - carrom ball, slider etc - and bagged 15 wickets, finishing as the side's second highest wicket-taker.

"Personally I thought I took more responsibility with the ball in terms of trying to shut wherever the holes were. My bowling was a big positive," were Ashwin's words after the end of the season.

What pulled them back?

Moises Henriques and Varun Chakravarthy sidelined because of injuries was a big blow. While the Henriques option denied them the opportunity of using a quality player in the batting and bowling departments, Varun's absence meant they missed a good supporting spinner to Ashwin, especially with him promising with his mystery. Murugan Ashwin did feature in ten games, but he only managed to pick up five wickets.

The Indian contingent did not shoulder much responsibility in the middle-order. Sarfaraz Khan did make decent contributions, but he could not be persisted with because of team combination. Mandeep Singh got starts, at times didn't get to bat, but it was at the fag end that the team realized the value of Nicholas Pooran's big hitting in the middle overs.

"My biggest takeaway from the IPL will be the powerplays. Both with the ball and the bat we were really shoddy," said the captain.

Ashwin was quite right. In the process of probably batting deep due to lack of great support lower down the order, the openers weren't firing away and the feeble middle-order came under severe pressure when exposed.

But Rahul did smash his way out in the last game against CSK. 55 runs came off his own bat in what was a 68-run powerplay without loss - the best for KXIP in the entire season. Unfortunately, the best came at the last when they were already knocked out.

It was the Rahul of 2018, who never really cared about the bowler. Just see the ball, hit the ball. Why didn't the openers bat the way they did on May 4 for the rest of the season? Was there a role given?

"Probably bar a couple of games against Mumbai.. We wanted to be a little bit conservative in the powerplay.. Obviously with the likes of Bumrah, Malinga bowling in the powerplay, we wanted to dominate through the middle period and we did that. Other than that the score we wanted to create as team has been the same throughout. We certainly tried to get players play with freedom. It's easier to do that when you bat deeper, but 50-plus was always our target in the powerplay and that didn't change," Hesson explained.

With the ball, Punjab leaked runs at will in the first six overs. They conceded more than 50 runs in 11 of their 14 games, adding woes to their already inexperienced death bowling.

What they sorely miss?

A quality all-rounder, underperforming David Miller and Andre Tye

Henriques is a proven customer over the years in the IPL. Without him, KXIP lacked stability in the middle-order and also the knack to break partnerships. The team somehow failed to get the best of Sam Curran - the batsman. They did send him to open the batting against Delhi Capitals, but he was mostly under utilized and didn't even feature in all the games. He proved his worth by smashing KKR en route to his 24-ball 55. No other able replacements were there to tighten the screws.

"We don't have an Andre Russell or (Hardik) Pandya, who can come out and go all out, so we have to structure things differently," Hesson said about the lack of a good all-rounder.

David Miller's poor numbers (213 runs in 10 games) weakened the middle-order further and he didn't repay the faith the franchise had on him when they retained him after last season.

Another massive disappointment was Andrew Tye. Massive because this is a player who was the tournament's leading wicket-taker with 24 scalps, failing to even be a regular part of the side and taking just three wickets in six games. It was a bit of a mystery that someone who had a good knuckle ball, bowls decent yorker and short ball, struggled so badly.

Signing of the season

Nicholas Pooran

A small sample size to Pooran's contribution was the way he played against KKR in their penultimate league game. The team had lost both Rahul and Gayle very early in what was a must-win game. Pooran came in, took the attack to the bowlers and eventually helped them cross a healthy 180-plus score. It was that sort of intensity that the team was lacking with Miller's failure and the no-show from the rest in the middle order.

He batted positively every time he went out and made telling contributions in three of his last four game, although the scoreboards may actually not give the correct picture. At 23 years, he has a lot to offer and the 4.2 crore investment was indeed a good one. Just that he should have been better utilized.

What's on the highlights reel?

Sam Curran hat-trick

Chris Gayle had tweeted a photo when he posed with Sam Curran, a school boy. Years later, Curran would replace Gayle as the opener in the side and made a decent start. However, it was his unbelievable yorkers at the death that stole the show.

Delhi Capitals were coasting to victory in their 167-run chase. They were 144/3 in 16.3 overs with a set Rishabh Pant and Colin Ingram at the crease. Shami had done his bit and took a couple of wickets and panic set in in the Delhi camp that they also gifted a run-out. Curran ran in his final two overs and bagged four wickets in the space of five balls, including a hat-trick with the wickets of Harshal Patel with the final ball of his penultimate over and the by knocking over Kagiso Rabada and Sandeep Lamichchane with the first two balls of his final over. From nowhere, Delhi lost 7 wickets for 8 runs and Punjab ended up winning the game by 14 runs.

On a scale of 1 to 10...

Auction strategy (5/10)

They had the richest wallet (36.20 cr) going into the auctions earlier this year. Yet, they struggled to find able replacements to back up injuries. Trading Marcus Stoinis for Mandeep Singh back-fired badly because Stoinis would have sorted their all-rounder woes, thereby also fixing middle-order. Releasing Manoj Tiwary too wasn't a smart move, given his experience and now looking in hindsight, he could have perfectly lifted the middle-order given his prowess.

Batting output (5/10)

It didn't take much time for oppositions to figure out that they were top-heavy with the bat. The onus was on Rahul and Gayle to do the bulk of the scoring while Mayank Agarwal did provide some support. The middle-order wasn't great and there was not much of power towards the end to get those extra 15-20 runs.

Bowling prowess (4/10)

It was mainly Shami and Ashwin with the ball. Curran did impress in a couple of games, but Hardus Viljoen, Ankit Rajpoot and even Mujeeb ur Rahman were a big let down. Andrew Tye's dismal show meant the death bowling was a problem.

Overall performance

"We had the ability to punch well above where we ended up," Ashwin said looking back at the season. Plagued by injuries, the team constantly was looking for the right combination and never played the same XI. It hurts to lose out on advancing due to net run rate. And it hurts even more when they realize they had golden opportunities to close out lost games. A bit more bite with the bat as a unit would have seen them through. The bowling unit lacked great quality, so there is only little room for improvement.

Is 2019 an improvement on 2018?

Definitely not. It was similar in terms of their progress. Made a great start - winning 4 out of their first 6 games and then faded out just like last year. The batting was almost the repeat of 2018 for the top three. Rahul, Gayle doing well, Mayank doing a decent job. Pooran's contribution and Curran's showing was a plus this season, but both were not given an extended run to make a great impact. The bowling certainly was a let down. Ankit Rajpoot's lack of penetration meant the team lacked a fourth bowler who entered the double digits in the wicket-column, which could have sorted out their issues with the new ball and at the death to an extent.

What next then?

"Harpreet Brar, Sam Curran, Arshdeep Singh, Nicolas Pooran all these guys made telling contributions this year and that really adds to the strength of a franchise. If you look at the successful franchises, they retain their core. We really need to start producing players and have that core going forward," Ashwin explained looking forward to the next season.

It's clear he has set his eyes on youngsters to carry the team forward. He wants players to turn up better and put in performances which will eventually help the team make their top five (or whatever number) retentions in the coming seasons. KXIP also spoke about strengthening their middle-order, which will help ease the pressure on the openers. The management would hope the buys at the table next time pay off, or more importantly not get injured.

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