The Kings XI Punjab seem to have rediscovered the art of winning and though it is a bit too late for them in this year’s IPL, they certainly are making a lot of teams sweat. Already, the Kolkata Knight Riders, the Mumbai Indians and the Delhi Daredevils have suffered at their hands and have had to wait to qualify for the semifinals. The Mumbai Indians are now at the top of the heap and nobody will be able to catch them on points, but the other two teams may just find out that they have been derailed because of that loss to the bottom-placed team.
The Deccan Chargers, whom they now meet, will be praying that the boys from Punjab go back to their losing ways. The Chargers have done extremely well in recent games, defending a small total against the batting might of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, and are looking keen once again. Adam Gilchrist still hasn’t hit top form but Rohit Sharma and Andrew Symonds continue to belt the ball into the stands.
However, it is the spin of Pragyan Ojha that is their biggest plus. The left-hander not only gets important wickets but also keeps the runs down. What has been impressive is the way he has learnt from the experience of being savaged by Sourav Ganguly. He is now using his height to good advantage and without tossing the ball too much is slowing it down just enough to defeat the batsman’s aggressive intent.
With the pitches getting a bit tired now as the season comes to an end, there is more help for the spinners as the ball is gripping the ground more. The other big plus for the Chargers has been their outstanding fielding. In Symonds, Rohit Sharma and Herschelle Gibbs they have three of the finest fielders in the world and with Gilchrist being impeccable behind the stumps, there are no freebies for the opposition. The batting order, so crucial for this ultra short format of the game, is steady so there are no big changes up and down the order.
It is here that other teams, especially the Rajasthan Royals, have not got it right. That Yusuf Pathan still bats as low as number 6 is baffling. It is important that batsmen like Shane Watson and Pathan get as many of those 20 overs to bat and put up a huge score for the team.
Even the Mumbai Indians should be having a close look at their batting order. With the kind of form shown by Pollard, it is time to have him up the order and give him more overs to bat.
As the last weekend of the qualifying stage is upon us, it is a must-win situation for the Deccan Chargers but not for the Kings XI and the body language of the two teams will be interesting to see.