They came, they saw, they were hurt, badly, they bounced back and they threatened to conquer but never did. A neutral’s delight, Kings XI Punjab added life and spice to IPL 2020 to transform the tournament from good to great, but, unfortunately, were not able to make it memorable for themselves.
How gut-wrenching would Shawshank Redemption have been had Andy Dufresne, after suffering years and years of ill-fate, and after planning his escape by crawling through sewer tunnels, got caught by police officers right at the very end? Kings XI Punjab’s IPL 2020 campaign was a bit like that - it had no redemption; it was outrightly heart-rending. First they got falsely incarcerated for no fault of their own - these umpiring fiascos, duh - then, through their actions, they dug their own grave and finally, marginally before it was too late, they got busy living and planned the ultimate escape, only to get busted milliseconds before breaking free. A romanticist’s nightmare; a sadist’s dream.
To reduce Punjab’s IPL 2020 campaign to one or two protagonists would be a grave injustice to their whole campaign. It was a bit like Season 1 of the Wire: Jimmy McNulty (KL Rahul) was the one around whom the plot revolved around, yet there were at least 5-8 more characters who got equal screen time to shine, and shone - sometimes even more than McNulty himself. Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran, Mohammad Shami, Chris Gayle, Arshdeep Singh, The spin-twins Ashwin and Bishnoi and Chris Jordan all played significant hands in victories and did their part to bolster the ‘Spirit of Punjab’, which got KXIP going at a time when they were completely written off.
KL Rahul lived long enough to see himself become the villain. Of course, Glenn Maxwell would be the obvious choice here - but deep down, me, you and everyone else knows that he was never big enough to serve as the villain. Rahul, on the other hand, was, and now, in front of us, stands guilty. Antagonists generally don’t score 670 runs and hold the Orange Cap, but context matters: ultimately, Rahul, through his actions, and through his approach, hurt the side. Him being the captain and opener meant that Punjab were powerless from stopping him from doing so. Rahul started off as the oh-so-innocent Walter White but, with time, transformed into Heisenberg - in the name of helping his family, he, unintentionally, destroyed them with some excruciatingly puzzling, painfully slow knocks.
Marks for direction - 5/10
The Director, Anil Kumble, had all the tools at his disposal to compose an artsy, oscar-worthy film yet all he could manage was a shabby, half-arsed masala flick. A few members of his cast let him down terribly - Maxwell and Cottrell, in particular - but it has to be said that Kumble came off as someone who did not believe in his own story. He wrote, rewrote, tore-down and changed the script and personnel far too often and this derailed the film for the most part, except for the first hour of the second half, which sailed smoothly. His indecisiveness, eventually, cost the side.
Punjab, historically, are a franchise renowned for taking punts and this year, too, they took quite a few - banking on Arshdeep at the death; throwing Maxwell the new ball - which paid off. The Maxwell, Arshdeep punts coupled with the trust Rahul showed on the leggies Bishnoi and Ashwin was reminiscent of the good ol’ days when Gilly won Punjab matches by trusting the likes of Harmeet, Bhargav Bhatt and Chawla. The decision to open with Mayank and Rahul, even at the cost of batting Gayle at three, and the move to give Pooran complete license turned out to be masterstrokes.
If there were 10 hits, there were 20 misses - none so more than figuring out who their four best overseas players were. Maxwell turned out to be a perennial disappointment, but Cottrell, Mujeeb and Neesham piled more misery by giving the management zero reasons to pick them. The KXIP think-tank also missed a trick by not trusting Jordan enough up-front, after his bad days at the office, so a combination of haphazard management and misfiring players resulted in Maxwell playing as a specialist bowler in the second half. Whatever Punjab tried to do with Sarfaraz, Karun Nair and K Gowtham also turned out to be calamitous.
As attested above, it was the supporting actors who made Punjab who they were and almost helped the side do the impossible and book a place in the playoffs. A testament to this was the knock of Deepak Hooda in their last game versus CSK: having stayed in the side as a non-contributing player for almost half the season, Hooda struck a 30-ball 62 with the team on its knees. From Ashwin to Arshdeep to Hooda to Jordan, the supporting actors did all they could to help Punjab hold fort; it was just a shame that the lead characters let the team down when it mattered.
Overall Rating: 6/10