There was an eerie similarity in the manner in which Kings XI Punjab and Sunrisers Hyderabad lost to their opening Indian Premier League (IPL) encounters to Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively.
While Punjab tied their IPL encounter against Delhi (and eventually lost the Super Over) despite, at one point, needing only one from three balls, Hyderabad collapsed from an impregnable 121 for 2 to 153 all out in their chase of 164, losing eight wickets for just 32 runs.
Neither side was under any sort of pressure in their respective chases, yet crumbled rather inexplicably. There is a lesson for both Punjab and Hyderabad, and other IPL franchises as well, in the twin losses.
If a set batsman is at the crease, he must ensure he sees the team through. Normally, this is considered true for Tests and ODIs. However, these recent IPL games have reiterated the importance of set batting right till the end, to take the team over the line.
In cricket, as in life, often the margin of error is very little and can make all the difference between victory and defeat.
Take Mayank Agarwal’s case for example. He played a splendid innings to bring Punjab right back in the game against Delhi after the chasing side had succumbed to 55 for 5 in their chase of 158.
Despite the pressure of the constantly rising strike rate, Agarwal kept his head and played a steady hand. He only opened up when he knew that the situation was getting out of hand. Even then, Agarwal batted very sensibly, picking his bowlers and shots to ensure maximum positive results.
This is why it was highly surprising to see him lose his concentration at the very end and throw away all the hard work.
Moments before Agarwal played the ill-fated stroke, the legendary Sunil Gavaskar had stated on air the importance of taking a single and finishing off the match safely, instead of going for the glory shot. At that moment, Gavaskar's advice sounded very old world. This was the IPL after all, and the adrenaline would have surely been flowing for Agarwal.
Minutes later, the KXIP opener was back in the dugout having lifted a full toss straight to the only fielder in the deep. If only Agarwal had a chance to listen to the experienced Gavaskar’s advice, things could have been different.
Now, if we look at the other IPL game in question, Bairstow too batted with remarkable composure after being involved in the unfortunate run out of his skipper David Warner. When he and Manish Pandey were at the crease, the Royal Challengers’ bowling looked completely insipid.
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In fact, it never seemed as if RCB would even get a wicket. However, complacency set into Pandey’s mind and he played a nothing stroke to give Bangalore some hope. As long as Bairstow was at the crease, the game was always in Hyderabad’s command.
What caused Bairstow to play that horrible stroke against the dangerous Yuzvendra Chahal only the England batsman knows. However, the repercussions of that shot were severe as Hyderabad suddenly shifted from patient to panic mode.
It wasn’t as if the equation was too daunting. But the absence of a set batsman and inexperience in the middle made a massive difference. While Hyderabad were cruising with Bairstow and Pandey at the crease, they sank once the former was dismissed.
Agarwal and Bairstow’s momentary lapse and the damage it caused to their respective sides is a warning sign to all IPL teams moving ahead - you are never in control until you cross the finish line.Published 22 Sep 2020, 16:56 IST