Kings XI Punjab initially dominated the IPL 2018 but their performance took a drastic hit in the last few games, ruining their chance to make it to the playoffs. The team’s captain, Ravichandran Ashwin commented on how the team has been sloppy in the last few games which cost them big-time.
Kings XI Punjab witnessed a drastic change in momentum in this season of the IPL, after having won five out of their first six games against the likes of Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad, they abruptly succumbed to a losing streak. The team finished seventh on the points table with 12 points, the same as Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. And Ashwin believes that the thrashing served by Royal Challengers Bangalore on May 14 had not just significantly affected their run-rate but also hurt the morale and momentum of the team. Bangalore had bowled Punjab all out for just 88 and finished their game in only 8.1 overs without losing a wicket.
“We have been pretty sloppy in these last few games and it has cost us. To be very blunt about it, our game against RCB cost us a lot – not just in terms of run-rate but even momentum and morale. But we tried to keep as positive an environment as possible so that we can come out and play good cricket on days like these, but we were not really there. CSK was good on the day," said the Punjab captain.
Kings XI Punjab had a great start where we could see players like Chris Gayle getting back in the game just to slowly lose his momentum in the next few games. KL Rahul and Andrew Tye made a huge difference to the team’s gameplay. Rahul ended with 659 runs at an average of 54.91 and a strike-rate of 158.41 while Tye had 24 wickets at 18.66 and an economy rate of 8.00. The young players Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Ankit Rajpoot did show good progress where Mujeeb had an excellent economy rate of 6.99, Ankit took 2 for 19 on Sunday, adding on to a five-wicket haul earlier in the tournament against table toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad.
“In the first half of the season, we were playing at Mohali and mostly our openers, Chris and KL were making the runs. It was a problem, with the middle order not really contributing that much,” acknowledged Ashwin. “And it hurt us in the latter half of the tournament. As expected, nobody came good. It was one of those seasons where nothing really came off in the second half. But having said that, there are a lot of positives to look at. Ankit really stood up, he’s one of those guys that we’d really like to take forward. Obviously, a lot of other positives with KL doing so well and we have the Purple Cap as well with Andrew Tye. But somehow or the other, we’ve had some great performances, but we haven’t really latched on and given the support.
“We are a franchise that has really underperformed this season, so we’d like to take it forward next year. Teams give you a few wins but a good team culture gives you tournament wins.”
Punjab had a shimmer of hope to qualify if they had beaten Chennai by 53 runs or more in the first innings while they wielded the bat. Punjab had the advantage of only trying to beat Rajasthan Royals’ net run-rate as Mumbai and Bangalore had lost. However, the team struggled to even compete in the match, leave alone winning by a big margin. Gayle, Aaron Finch, and Rahul walked out of the crease early on as these three big hitters were taken out in the first four overs for just 16 runs. The team’s plan of scoring at least 200 was foiled as CSK bowled Punjab all out for 153.
“We started off pretty poorly, losing three wickets in the Power Play. From there on it was always going to be
Brad Hodge, the Punjab coach, echoed his captain’s assessment but went on to complement MS Dhoni’s control over the game and Chennai Super Kings’ performance as a whole. He pointed out Dhoni’s tactics of upturning the batting order and sending in Harbhajan Singh and Deepak Chahar at No.5 and No.6 respectively was surprising.
“It was always going to be a tough ask. Our game plan was to try and get 200 and hopefully try and restrict (them) as best as we possibly could,” he said. “But at 14 for 3 [16 for 3], that target was probably unrealistic. I think we showed great fighting spirit over there. We didn’t get over the line, but the score was below par. It was always going to be a tough challenge, but I thought we gave it our best shot.
“The reality is that MS and his side are in a position to be able to pull off those moves and have confidence in doing it,” felt Hodge. “We know that MS will certainly do that sort of courageous stuff and that’s why he’s a champion and he’s got a champion team. We look to emulate such things. We’re short of experience compared to this Chennai Super Kings side, but hopefully, over the coming years whatever group comes together, we’ll learn those traits and be able to have courage as well to be able to do that with our group.”