The Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) had their moments in the first half of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020), but a combination of poor decision-making and tactical errors condemned them to 6 losses in their first 7 games.
However, KL Rahul's side have gone on a winning run recently and have won their last three games, with all three coming against teams currently in the top half of the IPL 2020 points table. Now with 4 wins from 10 games, KXIP have managed to give themselves an outside chance of making the playoffs by clinching the final spot.
This turnaround has shocked fans and experts alike, and momentum is firmly with KXIP as they attempt to pull off the impossible. They have to win at least 3 of their remaining 4 games, and with recent performances in mind, it would be criminal to rule them out.
Here are 3 major reasons behind KXIP's stunning turnaround in IPL 2020.
#3 KXIP have given themselves more bowling options in recent games
One of the biggest issues that KXIP faced in their first few games was the dearth of bowling options at their disposal. Often playing only 5 front-line bowlers in their quest for a balanced playing XI, KL Rahul had little by way of freedom and even claimed during a post-match interview that he desires another option.
While James Neesham did bowl a couple of handy overs in KXIP's previous game, the highlight has been the usage of 10.75 crore-buy Glenn Maxwell. The Australian has completed his quota of 4 overs in all three of KXIP's wins, and has been unerringly accurate for the most part against opposition left-handers.
Maxwell has lent balance and versatility to a KXIP spin attack that features Murugan Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi, while Rahul can also call upon pacers Mohammed Shami and Arshdeep Singh. With the extra option or two making up for when a bowler has an off-night, KXIP seem to have plugged the biggest hole in their playing XI.
#2 KL Rahul has played more freely at the top of the order
While the impact of KL Rahul playing more freely at the top of the order might not reflect in his strike rate, it's undeniable that the KXIP skipper has taken it upon himself to give his team great starts. The loss to the Kolkata Knight Riders in which Rahul was accused of leaving it too late seems to have spurred him into action.
In the very next game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Karnataka batsman hit 5 sixes en route to his 61, and although the game eventually went to the final over, his intent was clearly visible. And against the Mumbai Indians, Rahul notched up 77 off 61 balls before Jasprit Bumrah rattled his timber with a pinpoint yorker.
With over 500 runs and the Orange Cap on his head, there's no doubt that Rahul has been KXIP's best player in IPL 2020, and he is only getting better.
#1 Chris Gayle has added value to KXIP in more ways than one
Perhaps the biggest reason behind KL Rahul's shot-making in the powerplay is the fact that Chris Gayle is set to follow him. The Universe Boss might be batting at No. 3, but he's had an undeniable impact on the team with his ability to take on the spinners in the middle overs and the energy that he brings.
KXIP struggled big-time with the No. 3 position, with Karun Nair failing and Mandeep Singh suffering an injury. They've found their answer in the big West Indian, who has contributed to each of the team's last three wins with enterprising cameos. He even struck a massive six off Trent Boult in the second Super Over against the Mumbai Indians, and has defied age and expectations in IPL 2020 so far.
Gayle's performances do raise the question as to why he wasn't part of the playing XI in the first place, but as they say, better late than never.
Published 22 Oct 2020, 13:06 IST