Punjab Kings (PBKS) entered the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 as one of the strongest contenders to finish in the top four. However, in the final week of the league stage, their chances of qualifying for the IPL playoffs hang by a thread. With six wins and seven losses from 13 matches, they are down in seventh position in the IPL points table. They also have a poor net run rate of -0.043.
To qualify, PBKS will have to win their last match against the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) by a massive margin and hope for other results to go their way. Delhi Capitals (DC) and the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) are on 14 points with one game in hand. If either of them win their last league match, Punjab will automatically be eliminated as they can’t reach 16 points.
IPL 2022: Where PBKS need to improve
With their elimination from the IPL 2022 playoffs looking like a very high possibility, we take a look at three areas where the franchise can improve next season.
#1 Change rigid batting approach
Punjab have adopted an England cricket-like ‘go all out’ philosophy in the batting. It has worked but not consistently enough to put them in a good position in the points table. The fact that they are gasping for breath after 13 games is proof that they need to rethink their batting strategy.
A look at their batting numbers in IPL 2022 after 13 games shows that they have scored 200-plus on only two occasions. They managed the feat for the first time in their opening match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), where they chased down 206. The second instance also came against the same franchise. This time, Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone went berserk as Punjab batted first and won the game by 54 runs.
In their very next game against the Delhi Capitals’ (DC) though, the same batting line-up failed to chase 160. This has pretty much been the pattern of PBKS’ batting in IPL 2022. Irrespective of what they do against Hyderabad in their last league match of the season, Punjab will have to find some method to their batting madness ahead of IPL 2023.
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#2 Have better balance in the playing XI
One of the key reasons behind Punjab’s inconsistent run in IPL 2022 has been the lack of balance in their playing XI. While they are batting heavy at the top and in the middle, they lack utility players who can contribute with both the bat and ball. Bairstow, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Livingstone form a formidable top four. However, skipper Mayank Agarwal has had a forgettable season with the bat, which has been a big setback.
The actual problem starts after that. Jitesh Sharma is a handy batter, but No. 6 is a position too high for him. After that, there is literally nothing as far as batting talent is concerned. Harpreet Brar and Rishi Dhawan can chip in with the willow but they haven’t done much in the opportunities that they have had.
To sum up, PBKS’ batting woes have literally been playing with five batters, considering Agarwal has hardly made a significant contribution. You can’t expect to win a tournament with such a lop-sided playing XI.
#3 Be tactically shrewd
Punjab have also suffered because some of the tactical moves they have made have either made no sense or have come too late to benefit the IPL team. In their earlier matches, West Indies’ Odean Smith was almost being used like a lottery with the ball. He was being held back for the last over in the hope that the other bowlers would give him enough runs to defend off the last six balls.
The move backfired horrendously in one game as Rahul Tewatia smacked the last two balls for sixes. Smith got some wickets in the next match but this ploy was fraught with risk and Punjab had to abandon the idea.
In hindsight, the decision to thrust Bairstow into the middle order in his first few matches for the franchise hurt PBKS in a big way. Even since moving to the opening slot, the aggressive Englishman has been a totally different player. But by the time the decision was made, it was perhaps a bit too late.
Agarwal, or whoever captains PBKS next season, will need to be far more shrewd and tactically switched on.