Chokers. As harsh as it may sound, that’s an apt word to describe the Kings XI Punjab unit. Too often in this edition of the Indian Premier League, KL Rahul and his men have ended up on the losing side after being in a position of strength. As a result, they find themselves languishing at the bottom of the points table with a solitary win – against Royal Challengers Bangalore – from seven outings.
In three matches – against Delhi Capitals, Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders – they were within touching distance of victory before they decided to shoot themselves in the foot.
IPL 2020 POINTS TABLE
And yet, in the darkness of their misfortune there have been some bright sparks. Call it irony, but the top-two batsmen of the league are from the side and they are the only centurions thus far as well. Rahul leads the tally with 387 runs and is followed by his statemate and opening partner Mayank Agarwal (337). While the bowlers have time and again let the team down especially in the death overs, pacer Mohammed Shami (10 wickets) and young leggie Ravi Bishnoi (8 wkts) have been the exceptions.
The backs-to-the-wall Punjab franchise will take on a resurgent Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday night. The question is, can KXIP emulate their only win and keep their hopes of advancing to the playoffs alive? They will certainly have to play their hearts out against Virat Kohli‘s men.
Foreign players, barring Nicholas Pooran, have been more a liability than an asset. Spin legend Anil Kumble, KXIP’s director of cricket operations, will have some juggling to do with the bowling line-up with both pacers Sheldon Cottrell and Chris Jordan yet to find rhythm.
While it looks imminent that the Chris Gayle will replace a misfiring Glenn Maxwell in the playing XI, the fact that the Jamaican will take guard for the first time in the competition will not be lost on the team management. The small boundaries of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium make for an ideal setting for Gayle and indeed the Punjab outfit.
Having said that, KXIP won’t find the going easy, especially against a team which is coming off two wins on the go. At the halfway mark, RCB find themselves well-placed and would certainly like to keep their position.
RCB’s bowling woes look somewhat sorted with the pace of Chris Morris and Navdeep Saini being backed by the spin guile of Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar. They are unlikely to tinker with their playing XI.
With the pitches slowing down considerably, the night will be as much about batting technique as it will be about precision in bowling.