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IPL 2020: Kings XI Punjab and the art of losing matches from a winning position

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In cricket, there are two terms which define how a result has spectacularly changed. One is snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, wherein the team wins a match unexpectedly from a position that they are expected to lose.

The other is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in which a team conspires to lose in an unlikely manner from a position of strength or victory. Kings XI Punjab’s campaign in IPL 2020 falls into the second bracket.

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In this tournament, Kings XI Punjab have mastered the art of losing matches from a winning position on a consistent basis and that has seen them at the bottom of the table with just two points from seven matches, making their next seven games virtual must-wins.

Having an adverse result from a winning position for the first time is a case of bad luck. The second time is worrisome.

The third time is simply lack of mental strength and pressure getting the better of a player. How else can one explain the loss against Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi on Saturday? For the third time, Kings XI Punjab simply choked under the pressure and they lost inexplicably.

Strike-rate, miracle and pressure

These three factors are perhaps the contributing factors for Kings XI Punjab’s stay at the bottom. The issue of strike-rate was highlighted in the games against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders. In the game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, KL Rahul’s strike-rate was just 68. Only one batsmen scored at a strike-rate of 150 to 200 and that was Nicholas Pooran.

After the match, Rahul had a vague answer to the slow strike-rate. “I think strike rate is very, very overrated. For me, it’s only about how I can win games for my team. On a certain day if I think 120 can win the game for my team, I will do that. This is how I bat. I like to take responsibility as a leader,” Rahul said.

The same strike-rate and his role as an anchor probably hurt Kings XI Punjab against Kolkata Knight Riders. In the whole match, Rahul had a strike-rate of 127 and Mayank Agarwal’s was just 143.

Although they had stitched a 115-run opening stand, they had consumed 86 balls. In a chase of 165, they still needed 50 off 5.2 overs, still over nine runs per over and against a powerful bowling line-up. Rahul may or may not like it, but it was the cautious strike-rate that left too much to do for the batsmen who were coming on.

Undone by miracles

However, on two occasions, you cannot blame Kings XI Punjab due to the sheer tour-de-force of the miracles that took place in Sharjah and Dubai against Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings.

Especially in Sharjah, the game looked done when Rajasthan Royals needed 51 off 18 balls. No one even in their wildest dreams imagined that Rahul Tewatia would blast five sixes in one over bowled by Sheldon Cottrell. Before that blitz, Tewatia managed just eight runs off 19 balls. It was by this sheer miracle of Tewatia that Rajasthan Royals achieved the highest successful chase in IPL history.

Against Chennai Super Kings, they were undone by the sheer power and determination of Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis as they powered past 180 without losing a wicket. Kings XI Punjab were undone by the audacious power of both players, something which they did not count upon.

Against Delhi Capitals in their opening game, Marcus Stoinis had rescued the side from the dead not once but twice. His 20-ball fifty gave Delhi Capitals something to bowl at. With the ball, he changed the match in the final over in a game which was of fine margins. Mayank Agarwal could not benefit from a dropped catch.

With one run needed off two balls, he got out and Chris Jordan followed suit taking the match unbelievably in the Super Over where they were bowled over by Kagiso Rabada. Kings XI Punjab looked the other way at victory when it was being offered to them on a platter.

Muddled batting

KL Rahul knows that his middle order is almost non-existent and that is why he is batting cautiously. The lack of middle order experience contributed to the muddled thinking which impacted Kings XI Punjab in the game against Kolkata Knight Riders. When Nicholas Pooran played a bad shot, the ideal situation would have been to send the experienced Glenn Maxwell in.

Instead, KL Rahul promoted inexperienced Prabhsimran Singh to No.4. In the building pressure, he contributed just four off seven balls. Worse, in that 19th over bowled by Prasidh Krishna, KL Rahul fell, giving Kings XI Punjab 14 to get in the last over. Glenn Maxwell, who has not had a steady batting position in IPL 2020, failed to get Kings XI Punjab over the line as Sunil Narine defended 14 off the last over.

With so much chopping and changing, KL Rahul has not played with the same playing XI for all the seven games. With Kings XI Punjab now needing to win all their games to mathematically remain in contention, it is now or never for KL Rahul’s team to start snatching victory from the jaws of defeat rather than the other way round.

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