After a demoralizing loss in Delhi two days ago, Kings XI Punjab had a tall task ahead of them. With two huge matches against the defending champions Chennai Super Kings and table toppers Delhi Daredevils to go, the young Punjabi side needed to regroup and lift themselves to give themselves a shouting chance at making it to the playoffs. The stage was perfectly set for the inspirational skipper Adam Gilchrist to step in and take control of the situation.
For Gilchrist, a former IPL winning captain with Deccan Chargers, the challenge was to fight the elements. Apart from lifting the morale of his team, he also had to fight against the invincibility cloak that Chennai seems to put on in crunch games. And not to mention the rustiness caused by the month-long injury break. But the former Australian stumper showed his usual fighting spirit and came out on top with an unbeaten 64 after leading his team admirably on the field in the first innings.
On a seaming track he had to make a few tough calls like dropping Shaun Marsh, one of the batting mainstays for KXIP. He showed his experience by rotating his bowling resources in the CSK innings and ensuring that the batsmen were not allowed to break free at any stage of the innings. After Piyush Chawla went for a few in his first over, he made brilliant use of the part time spinner David Hussey to fill in the void. Despite sitting out from the game for such a long time, his efforts behind the stumps were as polished as ever as he finished with four catches, albeit straightforward ones.
Chasing six an over on a greenish track can be a tricky situation, and being the most experienced batsman in the line up, Gilchrist knew that he not only had to negate the initial threat of swing from Ben Hilfenhaus but also had to bat as long in the innings as possible. While he gave due respect to good deliveries early on, it was the usual aggressive Gilchrist whenever the ball was there to be hit. Against Ashwin too he looked to keep the tempo up and didnt allow the Indian spinner to settle down. After a fifty-run opening stand with Mandeep Singh, Gilchrist had ensured that a strong foundation was laid, and it was only a question of playing sensibly from here on.
The defending champions seemed to get back into the game with three wickets in quick succession but the Kings XI Punjab skipper didn’t allow the advantage to slip away to the rival camp. Along with another youngster, Sidharth Chitnis, he started building another partnership to wrest control from CSK. During his younger days Gilchrist, unlike the average Aussie, was known for his sportsman spirit and it was again on display when he refused a third run as Srikant Anirudha went down with an injured shoulder after saving a boundary.
With victory in sight, the former Australian vice-captain launched himself on the inexperienced Yo Mahesh and took twenty-two runs of his over to hasten the victory. Apart from reaching his half century, Gilchrist also helped the team to improved its net run rate in the process, which might prove to be vital in deciding the top four.
With the table toppers Delhi Daredevils being their next opponent, the Kings XI Punjab are still far away from a spot in the playoff. But after the Gilly boost they received, the young side will take the field with new vigor and much improved self belief when Virender Sehwag and co. travel to Dharamsala.