IPL 2019: Kings XI Punjab midseason analysis
With each team having played seven games out of 14 in the group stage, players and management will have seen enough in their games to identify what's working for them and what isn't. With that in mind, this series of articles focuses on what each team has done well, what hasn't worked for them so far, and where they can improve. The first in this series features Kings XI Punjab.
Kings XI Punjab became the first team to play seven matches in this IPL season after their game against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday. Their record currently stands at four wins and three losses, and are currently placed fourth in the points table with eight points and an NRR of -0.057.
Their first match of the tournament against Rajasthan Royals was memorable for Ravichandran Ashwin's mankading of Jos Buttler, which raised questions over the spirit of cricket and the rules by which the game is played but eventually resulted in a win for Kings XI thanks to an aggressive 79 from Chris Gayle.
An oversight in field placements robbed them of an early chance to dismiss Andre Russell against Kolkata Knight Riders in their second match and they went on to lose by 28 runs despite half-centuries from Mayank Agarwal and David Miller.
An eight-wicket victory against Mumbai Indians followed, characterized by a half-century from KL Rahul and aggressive cameos from Gayle and Agarwal. An epic collapse by Delhi Capitals, featuring a hattrick from Sam Curran gave them their third win, but half-centuries from Rahul and Sarfaraz Khan could not prevent a loss to Chennai Super Kings in the next match.
Another half-century from Rahul anchored the win against Sunrisers Hyderabad that followed, while a devastating performance from Kieron Pollard saw them lose to Mumbai Indians, despite managing to take the game all the way to the last ball of the match.
KL Rahul is currently their leading run-scorer with 317 runs, consisting of one century and three half-centuries. Chris Gayle (223 runs), Mayank Agarwal (184 runs), Sarfaraz Khan (165 runs) and David Miller (131 runs) have also contributed. That so many batsmen are contributing this year is a significant improvement from last year, where they found themselves dependent on Rahul scoring consistently.
Mohammed Shami and Ravichandran Ashwin lead the bowling with nine and eight wickets respectively, followed by Sam Curran with seven wickets. Notably, Shami and Ashwin are the only bowlers to play all seven matches, with the other bowlers being rotated depending on conditions and form.
Hardus Viljoen (four matches, four wickets), Mujeeb ur-Rahman (three matches, three wickets), Andrew Tye (three matches, two wickets), and Aniket Rajpoot (three matches, three wickets) are prime examples. Wickets from bowlers other than Shami and Ashwin will be useful towards the end of the group stage, especially during the death overs.
Their fielding has been excellent throughout, taking 19 chances out of 20 so far.
The management team of Mike Hesson (head coach), Craig McMillan (batting coach), and Ryan Harris (bowling coach) will be pleased with where the team stands midway through the group stage but will know that sustaining their form will be difficult. Kings XI found themselves with five wins from their first six games last year and still failed to qualify for the playoffs - something they will look to avoid this year.
Player availability will also be a concern towards the end. David Miller will be recalled by South Africa for their World Cup preparations, as will Mujeeb ur Rahman for Afghanistan. Moises Henriques is someone Kings XI could look to in the middle order, as he offers an additional bowling option, while Varun Chakravarthy and Murugan Ashwin are spin-bowling options to accompany Ravichandran Ashwin.
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