How things can change in a year? From perennial laggards to almost winning the title last year and now back to the bottom of the heap this season. Kings XI Punjab’s IPL transformation has turned a full circle.
It was surreal last year. They were the team to beat, conquering all, until falling at the last hurdle. This season, the same combination has just not come alive.
Against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on Saturday, Punjab axed Glenn Maxwell. Just 62 in five innings is a pale reflection of his 2014 exploits.
Maxwell, fresh from his World Cup exploits, has scored 7, 6, 15, 33 and 1 till now. He was dropped or rather rested last year too for one game in the middle of his purple patch, but it didn’t go down well with the Aussie.
Maxwell, who scored 552 in 16 matches in 2014, lost his rhythm ahead of the crucial knockouts costing the team dear. The management will be hoping that the one-match axe might get the Aussie scoring again.
Apart from Maxwell, the batting line-up of free hitters like the opening combination of Virender Sehwag and Murali Vijay along with David Miller are yet to deliver.
As the team was smothered by the CSK spinners on Saturday, one wondered what changes might be in the offing when they take on the Sunrisers Hyderabad in their first home match of the season after a three-match losing streak in their adopted home of Pune.David Warner has led SRH with aplomb, and might relish batting on the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) wicket. Every time Warner has got runs, SRH have looked a different side with the others playing around him.
But when he has failed, like against the Mumbai Indians on Saturday, the SRH batting has been found wanting in terms of soaking up pressure. The PCA is and has been a favourable ground for pacers but also provides true bounce and the ball comes on nicely.
Kings XI’s biggest worry though will be bowling. The Sunrisers bowling consists of Dale Steyn, Trent Boult and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and looks potent compared to Punjab’s. Pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson has struggled and the two dropped catches on Saturday are not going to help his confidence.
The Super Kings also exposed some chinks. Domestic pacers Sandeep Sharma, Anureet Singh, who till now had managed to hold their own, came under serious pressure and leaked runs.
The season is almost at its halfway mark but for the Kings XI Punjab it will be their first game at their original home, the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium.
After playing three matches at their adopted home in Pune and losing all, Punjab will be hoping that things take a turn for the better. Last time, when they arrived here from Dubai, the team were on a winning streak.
Everything was clicking for them but now with the campaign in shambles, the management will be hoping that the Mohali crowd and familiar settings might spur the team back into action.