Harsha Bhogle has stated that the Kings XI Punjab have been a sleeper hit in this year’s Indian Premier League, despite the fact that they were termed as underdogs by many analysts. The Ravichandran Ashwin-led side has already won five out of the nine matches they have played so far.
Kings XI Punjab had won five out of their first six matches in the last edition of the Indian Premier League, but could only manage one win in the rest of the eight before missing out on the playoff berth by a distance. Even in the current season, the Ravichandran Ashwin-led side has lacked big names barring their opening combination of Chris Gayle and KL Rahul, but they have still punched way above their weight, learning from their past mistakes.
At the moment, they have five wins in nine matches and need to win three out of the upcoming five matches in order to secure a playoff berth. Cricket commentator and analyst Harsha Bhogle has been of the opinion that the team has made the best utilization of the resources that were made available to them.
"The Kings XI Punjab have been the sleeper hit of this year's IPL. Almost everybody had written them off before the tournament started, questions were raised, and they were valid, about the balance of the team and, truth be told, it could have been the forgotten team of the IPL. We don't yet know if they will make the play-offs but it can pretty safely be said that no team has made as much of the resources available to it as the Kings XI has,” stated Harsha Bhogle, reported TOI.
In their encounter against Rajasthan Royals on Tuesday, KXIP could manage a decent total of 182, but given the nature of the pitch and Jos Butler’s form, many expected RR to get through. But the Kings bowled extremely well to restrict the opponents 13 runs from the target with pace bowling duo Mohammed Shami and debutant Arshdeep Singh taking two wickets apiece.
The two spinners Murugan Ashwin and Ravichandran Ashwin returned with extremely economical figures, giving only 24 runs in four overs, while scalping one and two wickets each. Afghan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who bowled three overs before going off the field due to an injury, also gave away 24 runs. Bhogle credited the bowlers for their exceptional bowling, despite the fact that they did not seem challenging enough on paper.
"Against Rajasthan Royals, the bowling, in defence of 182 which was at best par, was hardly threatening. Mohd Shami, having an excellent tournament but possessed of an otherwise ordinary T20 record, R Ashwin who isn't considered for white ball cricket, Murugan Ashwin, one of many leg spinners, Arshdeep Singh, hardly heard of and Mujeeb, the highly rated young Afghani who is having an average tournament. There was no sixth option to speak of. And yet, except for a few overs, they didn't let the Royals into the game," expressed the 57-year-old.
Before the start of the tournament, many believed that the Punjab-based franchise would fizzle out if the opening combination failed to get going, given the weak middle order. But they have proven their critics wrong, as Mayank Agarwal has notched up 225 runs in eight innings, at a healthy strike rate of nearly 125, and even the likes of Sarfaraz Khan and David Miller have delivered in the limited opportunities that they have got.
The skipper was criticised for the frequent changes in the playing 11, game after game, and also for the fact that they have only fielded five bowlers in every game, sometimes, even including the quota of all-rounders like Sam Curran. But the team has put up a great performance, and Bhogle believes that biggest credit for that goes to the skipper Ashwin, who has been shrewd with his captaincy, and has also delivered with the ball, scalping 11 wickets in nine matches.
"So why are they doing well? You could look at Chris Gayle and his starts, KL Rahul and his acceptance of a new role even if it means he uses up too many deliveries sometimes, Mayank Agarwal who has been excellent without too many talking about him, but this doesn't get you into the play-offs. The key has been the captain. It is fashionable to look for weaknesses in R Ashwin but with Dhoni, he has been the standout leader of this IPL. You look at that team and you know straight away who the leader is. He hasn't shied away from taking decisions, has been vocal and been happy to be in the eye of the storm himself. And, yes, he has bowled magnificently. If the Kings make the playoffs, with the resources they have, it will be a huge triumph for Ashwin," Bhogle signed off.
The Kings will next face Delhi Capitals at the Feroz Shah Kotla, on April 20.
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