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Punjab Kings: A season of aggressive peaks and passive valleys

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Last updated on 23 May 2022 | 05:35 PM
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Punjab Kings: A season of aggressive peaks and passive valleys

Punjab Kings' all guns blazing approach paid off brilliantly when it worked but caused self-destruction when it didn't

If Punjab Kings’ five-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bangalore in their first match of IPL 2022, their 54-run victory over Chennai Super Kings and the five-wicket win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in the final league match are considered, they are probably the most entertaining, fearless sides ever.

But if those cherry-picked victories are put aside, all we get from their campaign are half-baked realization of ideas that seemed great on the drawing board. 

Punjab Kings were the thriftiest franchise among the new ten having Rs 3.45 crore left in their purse after the mega auction and majority of their Indian contingent purchased for bases prices. It was a strange strategy to have just two retentions in the form of Mayank Agarwal and Arshdeep Singh and letting go Mohammad Shami and Chris Gayle. They paid Rs 12 crore for Mayank, who was an automatic choice for the captain’s role after KL Rahul, Punjab’s biggest investment, left for new entrants Lucknow Super Giants.

However, there were few smarts buys in the form of Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone and Kagiso Rabada alongside untested Odean Smith and Bhanuka Rajapaksa. Going by their experimental roster, Punjab would either be the dark horses in the expanded tournament or a team that folds before raising. The end result, however, is in the middle. Sixth-place finish with seven wins and seven losses.

Fears that came true

Risky batting leads to collapses

Boasting a heavy batting line-up that was built to bat teams out of matches, Punjab looked the part in their first match against RCB when they chased down 206 with six balls to spare. Shikhar Dhawan, Rajapaksa, Livingstone, Smith and Shahrukh Khan all came to party. Then the very next game against Kolkata Knight Riders, there didn't turn up. They cruised past CSK, then fell flat against SRH.  They were capable of beating Gujarat Titans by eight wickets, but lost to an inconsistent Delhi Capitals by nine wickets. One can feel sympathy for the team’s fans whose hopes hit peaks and valleys so fast.

Most of the times, it was Punjab’s capitulation with the bat that hurt them badly. Besides their openers (mostly Mayank Agarwal) failing consistently, their strike rotation and pacing the innings in the middle overs were abysmal. Punjab have the worst runs per wicket (22.4) ratio and the second worst balls per wicket (16.8) in this phase which increased the pressure at death.

In order to fix this problem, they decided to bench Shahrukh Khan which made sense because of the Tamil Nadu man’s repeated failures. But Rajapaksa being sidelined after just three games robbed Punjab the impetus needed at the top. 

The arrival of Jonny Bairstow might’ve motivated the management to drop Rajapaksa but Bairstow registered four single-digit scores and managed to cross 30 on four occasions. Just one of his fifties (66 off 29 balls vs RCB)  has come in a winning cause which did not allay the fears over their batting capitulations.

Surprisingly, Odean Smith was given more time despite leaking runs with the ball and failing to emulate his batting heroics against RCB. Even when the Windies allrounder was benched, nothing much changed for Punjab as they kept continuing their trend of winning one and losing the next.

Their entire approach hinged on a long innings from Shikhar Dhawan and using Liam Livingstone near the end. In absence of a good innings at the top, they tried to go guns blazing even when Livingstone was striking well. 

A good example of this strategy going awry was their clash against SRH when Shahrukh Khan, Odean Smith and Rahul Chahar swung wildly but connected none and Livingstone, who was striking at over 180, was deprived of strike. Due to this, Punjab lost five wickets for zero runs and from a situation where 190 was possible, they were all out for 151.

Silver Linings

Livingstone, Jitesh and Dhawan


Liam Livingstone was the star signing for the season for Punjab and it took him some time to find his groove. After scoring 19 against RCB and KKR in the first two matches, the Englishman had four 60-plus scores at a stupendous strike rate of 182.1 and also claimed six wickets which all came at crucial times. He was the only Punjab batter who looked unfazed by match situations or the amount of strike he got. The right hander went from 2 from 4 balls to 30 in the next six against Gujarat Titans by smashing an experienced bowler like Mohammad Shami for three massive sixes and two boundaries. Unfortunately, there weren't many takers for the finisher's role when he didn’t score runs.

Debutant Jitesh Sharma was another bright spot in a batting order bereft of consistency. The Vidarbha man came with a reputation of being a big hitter and his contributions were vital in the lower-middle order. He only crossed 40 once but scored at a healthy strike rate of 163.6 which compounded the impact of his 20s and 30s at the end. Taking over the gloves from Rajapaksa, Jitesh also accounted for nine catches and two stumpings which makes his future prospects in the competition bright.

No matter the fate of the team Shikhar Dhawan plays for, it’s hard to say “He had a bad season.” The current edition was no different as the lefthander crossed the 400-run mark for a seventh straight season. He averaged 38.33 and finished as the top scorer for the side with 460 runs from 14 matches with fifties to his name. His ability to pace his innings proved crucial in Punjab's season doubles over CSK and MI and the win over table toppers GT.

Rabada and Arshdeep shoulder bowling department

Had Kagiso Rabada stayed back in South Africa for the Test series against Bangladesh, Punjab Kings would’ve been suffering in the bowling department. After missing their opening game, Rabada picked up from his superb last season with DC to lead the bowling attack for his new franchise. The Proteas pacer is the third highest wicket-taker in the competition with 23 wickets from 13 innings at an average of 17.7. Though he was tad bit expensive with an economy of 8.6, Rabada bowled the toughest overs in the powerplay and at the death claiming 10 wickets each in both the phases further underlining his value.

While Rabada handled the wickets department, left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh shouldered the responsibility to contain the runs. Among bowlers who bowled at least 15 overs at the death, Arshdeep has the second best economy of 7.9 behind Jasprit Bumrah and has a dot-ball percentage of 23 which is the second best for that phase. The Punjab pacer repaid the faith shown by the franchise with 10 wickets from 14 innings at an economy of 7.7. He was always there for his captain in tough situations, an important quality that earned him a maiden call-up to the national team for the upcoming South Africa T20I series. 

Matches they should’ve won

After setting Gujarat Titans a target of 190 on a good batting pitch at the Brabourne Stadium, Punjab had them on the ropes with 12 runs needed off the last two balls. But they were up against Rahul Tewatia, tormentor-in-chief, facing Odean Smith. In the most unlikeliest fashion, the left hander sent two sixes into the stands to snatch the victory away from Punjab.

Chasing 154 on a tricky surface in Pune against Lucknow Super Giants, Punjab were off to a good start with Mayank Agarwal and Shikhar Dhawan scoring a cautious 35 in the first four over. Despite losing Dhawan, Mayank and Bhanuka Rajapaksa cheaply, Punjab had the chance to win had they kept rotating strike and go big at the end. Livingstone was undone by Mohsin Khan’s seaming delivery while the others slogged and perished. Rishi Dhawan (21 not out off 22 balls) fought till the end, but it wasn’t enough as LSG won the match by 20 runs.

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