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Punjab Kings prove that old habits die hard

The Punjab Kings crumbled under pressure again (Pic Credits: India TV)
The Punjab Kings crumbled under pressure again (Pic Credits: India TV)
EXPERT COLUMNIST

What would any normal individual do when his/her child keeps committing the same mistake over and over again? Try to accommodate those errors a few times, perhaps give them a better idea of how not to repeat it and help them break out of their rut, right?

Similarly, imagine that in a relationship, a partner keeps breaking the mutual code of trust and continues ignoring what the other wants. At first, it might not be as taxing because humans are prone to mistakes and no one really knows what is right until they've done something wrong.

As it happens more regularly, though, a sense of frustration creeps in - a sense of frustration that the other person isn't learning and more importantly, that he/she seems to be conveniently ignoring the elements that should ideally make a relationship tick.

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In cricketing analogies, Anil Kumble - the coach of the Punjab Kings - might feel a little aggrieved because his pupil, in this case the entire Punjab Kings outfit, has simply not been adhering to the instructions laid out.

In fact, post the remarkable encounter against the Rajasthan Royals, he even chastised his troops, saying that finishing the game in the 19th over was the mandate. The Punjab Kings didn't and the rest is history.

Prima facie, as it seems in most other situations, it might look as if the Punjab Kings batters have just not been able to follow the goals set out by their team management.

Held our nerves too. 😉 twitter.com/PunjabKingsIPL…

Yet, when such mishaps keep repeating themselves, the situation becomes slightly more complicated: Are the Punjab Kings really the excellent chasing side they consider themselves to be or is there a deeper "lack of clarity" malaise running through their ranks?

Over the past couple of years, the Punjab Kings have assembled a fairly strong batting unit. The likes of Chris Gayle, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran and Glenn Maxwell (in 2020) are bona-fide match-winners in T20 cricket and capable of tearing the opposition apart. However, when the pressure has been amped up, they’ve almost always succumbed to it.

Punjab Kings have made it a habit to lose games from winning positions

Against the Rajasthan Royals on Tuesday, they required 10 off 15 balls – an equation that was then reduced to 3 off 4 balls. And, that is discounting the fact that they needed only 4 off the last over, which was to be bowled by Kartik Tyagi – a relative greenhorn in the IPL circuit.

Aiden Markram tried for the glory shot at the start of the over and missed out. He had another almighty slog at the second ball of the over and while he got a bit of wood on it, it was only enough for a squirted single to fine leg.

Pooran then decided to be a little too cute and opted to glide a yorker past the keeper and towards the third-man fence. Remember, the West Indian had no sort of scoreboard pressure and another jam into the off side would’ve served their purpose as well. Not for Pooran, though.

Deepak Hooda walked in next and immediately, the Royals’ plan was clear.

They stacked their off-side field and intended to bowl wide yorkers. Hooda, however, was simply perplexed when he began batting. So much so that he forgot to heed to the telegram he had received about Kartik Tyagi’s tactics.

What an over, #KartikTyagi! To maintain a cool head under that kind of pressure and to get the job done, great stuff, very impressive! #PBKSvRR #IPL2021

During the 2020 edition of the IPL too, when the Punjab Kings (Kings XI Punjab then) faced the Mumbai Indians at Dubai, they required 9 runs off the final over. A well-established Hooda was at the crease and he was supported by Chris Jordan – another experienced international campaigner who knows how to wield the willow.

They got into the ascendancy in the final over, courtesy of a streaky boundary and only needed 4 runs off 4 balls at one stage. Instead, they only mustered 3 runs off the deliveries that remained and consigned themselves to a Super Over. Though they ultimately won the one-over eliminator, that match was another indicator of their inability to handle pressure.

Even on that occasion, Trent Boult bowled wide of off stump and forced Hooda to play through the off side – something that the latter couldn’t accomplish adequately enough.

A few games earlier, the Punjab Kings contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against the Kolkata Knight Riders at Abu Dhabi. On that instance, the equation was much more favourable than it was against MI. The Punjab Kings only needed 29 runs off four overs, with Rahul at the crease, having stroked his way to another half-century.

They accumulated 7 runs off the 17th over before Pooran endured another brain-fade moment against Sunil Narine in the 18th over. The Punjab Kings then sent out Prabhsimran Singh ahead of Maxwell. The former huffed and puffed for a 7-ball 4 and by the time he was dismissed, the Punjab Kings needed 16 runs off 8 balls.

Rahul departed a couple of balls later, meaning that the Punjab Kings then required 14 off the final over. Against Narine and with two batters who were yet to face a ball.

Thus, there is a certain pattern to how the Punjab Kings flounder in their run-chases. At times, they are a little too cautious through the middle phases and leave themselves with too steep a mountain to climb whereas on other occasions, they’ve simply not had enough conviction to get across the finishing line.

Their decision-making, both by those on the field and the team management, has also left a lot to be desired. Quite often, they’ve made the wrong call and while that might not seem huge in isolation, it has certainly led to the repeated messes the Punjab Kings have created for themselves.

From that perspective then, it seems quite astonishing that Kumble was so adamant that the Punjab Kings needed to finish their game by the 19th over. There is a reason T20 cricket is played across 20 batting overs and while the ploy to end the game early isn’t necessarily bad, it also hints that Kumble, deep down, knew that his side could wilt if put under that sort of cosh in the final over.

KL Rahul has plenty of questions to answer (Pic Credits: Scroll)
KL Rahul has plenty of questions to answer (Pic Credits: Scroll)

Perhaps that is the primary reason why Rahul is inclined to drop anchor at the slightest opportunity. While that approach has its shortcomings too – as was seen during the defeats to KKR and MI, it is also not a very glowing assessment of what lies for the Punjab Kings, if and when Rahul is sent back to the pavilion.

Moreover, this doesn’t seem a fool-proof plan, considering there will be circumstances when the Punjab Kings need to hold their own in the last over of an IPL fixture. And, with the kind of evidence they have turned in recently, one feels it might not end very well for them.

Interestingly enough, post the KKR fixture, Rahul quipped that he had no answers with respect to what had transpired. At the time, it seemed an honest opinion of a captain who had seen his team implode under pressure.

Now, in the aftermath of another similar capitulation, it seems that the Punjab Kings are nowhere close to finding any answers. What they have certainly done over the past couple of seasons, though, is prove that the adage “old habits die hard” indeed rings true.

The Punjab Kings are certainly not learning from their mistakes and are also conveniently ignoring whatever wisdom they’ve been receiving. The sense of frustration, both within and outside the Punjab Kings camp, is pretty inevitable then. That’s what happens in normal walks of life, after all!


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Edited by Prasen Moudgal
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