Punjab Kings and the art of a T20 misconstruct

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03 Oct 2021 | 02:59 PM
authorAakash Sivasubramaniam

Punjab Kings and the art of a T20 misconstruct

There is Kolkata Knight Riders, there is Royal Challengers Bangalore and then there is Punjab Kings

On the scoreboard, it was just six runs that separated the two teams – Royal Challengers Bangalore and Punjab Kings – but in reality, there was a sea of difference between the two sides. However, the contest served as a nice study for RCB, who qualified on the back of the win here in Sharjah, with their weakness exposed brutally. 

Time and again, since the restart at least, the Men in Red and Gold have shown terrible form in the overs just after the lifting of the field restriction. Today was no different, Bangalore were frolicking at 55 after the powerplay but yet for a patterned nth time this season, they could only add 14 runs in the next four overs, which increased to 16 runs off 30 balls. 

After the 12th over, RCB still were at 73 but had lost three wickets. However, their trust in Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers, once again a pattern allowed them to not just flex a muscle but post the highest score at the venue, 164/7. 

De Villiers scored an 18-ball 23, Maxwell with a monstrous 33-ball 57, on night where they sealed the third qualification spot. However, the multiple frailties for both sides still continued to shine as bright as the sun in Sharjah. 

RCB and the fall of momentum

Despite boasting the likes of AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell, RCB’s batting in the middle-overs (7-14) is shocking, as well elucidated today in Sharjah. They scored 16 runs off 30 balls after the field restriction was lifted. At the end of the 15th over, they were at 109/3, scoring just 54 runs in guess how many deliveries? 54. 

Before the competition moved its wagon, Bangalore languished at sixth in terms of being the second-worst batting display in the middle-overs. 424 runs, which also happened to be only ahead of Sunrisers Hyderabad, at a strike-rate of 126.2 and a run-rate of 7.6, clearly showed them their gaping weakness in India. 

Since the restart of the competition, RCB only marginally were better in comparison to their competitors but at a strike-rate of 105.8 and a run-rate of 6.30 per over. Twice at the same venue this season, RCB have shown that they might be quick-starters but the phase that follows the powerplay might end up being their Achilles heel. 

Glenn Maxwell’s turnaround

In the 2020 edition of the tournament, Maxwell averaged 15.43, struck the ball at 101.9, hadn’t scored a single six, and also had registered a duck. Every 11.8th delivery, he walked back making less to nearly no impact for the Punjab Kings. But in the most ironic of fashions, Maxwell had registered his fourth fifty this season in the clash against his former team. How did things turn around for the Australian all-rounder?

In contrast to last year, Maxwell has had a stable batting position, at No.4, where he has scored 407 runs, at an average of 40.7, and a threatening strike rate of 145.4, striking 19 sixes, with a boundary every 5.1 deliveries. The major reason behind his success could be attributed to the all-rounder playing at his preferred position with the backing of the management. His 33-ball 57 tonight was a game-changer, and sadly that was also the biggest differentiating factor between the two sides. 

13 of his sixes have come against spinners, which further elucidates how Maxwell has made a difference to the set-up but the obvious weakness still exists. 

Punjab and Bangalore with contrasting opening acts

While Punjab’s opening pair yet again proved that why the team is construed around them, Bangalore’s bowling in the powerplay showed why there is a BIG concern. In the last five IPL games, Bangalore have not struck in the powerplay, leaving it to the spinners – Shahbaz Ahmed and Yuzvendra Chahal – with the tough task. 

It has become a recurring theme for both sides. Punjab have always relied on their openers to get them off to the best start possible and rightfully, they have responded with consistency. On eight occasions, Punjab have been on the losing side despite their opening pair putting on a 50-run partnership, which suggests that there is a gaping hole in the middle-order. 

"Honestly, our batting has been a bit of a let-down. I would be lying if I say it doesn't play on my mind (on having to bat long and with care), I play a role that the team demands, I don't enjoy it, but this is a team game and that's what the team expects from you, you'll have to do it. In T20s, the openers get the bulk of the runs, you don't get middle-order players scoring 500-600 runs in a season," said Rahul, admitting that there is a serious issue with the shape of the franchise. 

For Punjab, qualification now is a throw of dice, it requires a lot of luck to go in your favour. But what was fascinating was the roll of dice that the management had done. Only once this season have they had their playing XI unchanged, which suggests the imbalance in the setup. 

Unlike the other teams, the Men in Red and Silver gave a long run to Nicholas Pooran and Chris Gayle when they had the likes of Moises Henriques and Fabian Allen on the bench. That is for another day but the decision to send out Sarfaraz Khan ahead of Shahrukh Khan in the crucial chase might very well paint the right picture of how Punjab play the game. 

Yuzvendra Chahal is still Bangalore’s poster-boy

In the second half of this year’s competition, RCB have picked up 12 wickets, five more than the second-placed Kolkata Knight Riders side. One of the major reasons behind that success is the resurgence of Yuzvendra Chahal, who picked up six wickets. 

Chahal with his display in the first half of the season not only lost his role as the first-choice spinner for India but also endured one of the toughest times of his T20 career. In the first half of the season, Chahal had picked up just three wickets despite playing in spin-friendly conditions in Chennai. But a major part of his resurgence could be attributed to his pace.

Five of his dismissals have come when he has bowled at the stumps, and six of his dismissals have come when he has bowled it at good length, averaging 6.5 while maintaining a strike-rate of 7.7, with 52.2% of his deliveries being dots. 43.1% of all of his deliveries have been dot deliveries, which only shows that he isn’t only helping RCB by getting wickets but also by building pressure consistently from one end.

"I backed myself and bowled according to my strength, just that I varied my length. On this wicket 160 was a good score. Virat (Kohli) told me not to go for wickets in the middle overs, he told me to bowl dot balls," said Chahal after his display against Punjab.

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Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Punjab KingsIndian Premier League, 2021Royal Challengers BangalorePunjab KingsGlenn MaxwellMohammed SirajYuzvendra Chahal

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