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Why KXIP's selection inconsistencies should not surprise anyone

The distribution of power at KXIP are palpable.
The distribution of power at KXIP are palpable.
ANALYST
Modified 13 Oct 2020, 17:41 IST
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In seven matches in IPL 2020 so far, Kings XI Punjab have enforced an average 1.67 change per match.

Of their 25 squad members, 19 have registered an appearance, the highest for any team in the tournament. Six of their overseas imports have featured in these games, 11% of all possible mathematical combinations have been saturated, and Chris Gayle would have featured twice already in an ideal world.

With KXIP's singular win coming in the one match in which they went unchanged, it is easy to see where the decision-making authorities of this team have concentrated themselves. In a Twitter interview posted on team's handle on 25ᵗʰ August, KL Rahul said:

"I know he (Kumble) will do most of the planning, and I just have to go out in the middle and carry it out".

It is not the average cliche that a captain feels entitled to slip about their coach or a player about their captain for it demarcates a solid line between the overused platitudes that cricketers generally sell to an uncaring media and themselves.

On the other hand, Kumble's affirmation about Rahul is probably generic, for it is way too familiar to be not. Rahul's is specific, imaginative and self-effacing: a composition unlikely of being the child of a cricketer's scant vocabulary. Hence, it is sufficient to pore over Kumble's history as a coach to discern whether this is the norm or the exception.

The Indian adventure under Kumble's tenure is obvious and well-documented. In this period spanning 13 months, India played 16 Test matches, eight ODIs and nine T20Is in preparation for the Champions Trophy.

Kohli's Test team, through these times, sifted through 21 cricketers (five of them openers), which was the largest pool for any team during that period. They were juggled at a rate of 1.81 change per match like in a chaotic barn dance. In matches that followed a draw or a loss, this figure jumped up to 2.2, which, although not significantly higher, narrates the thinking of the team.

Of these 29 changes, ten had to do with India's most pressing issue at the time: opening combinations. Kohli and Kumble's regime coveted the prized tag of being 'choppers and changers'.

That, of course, is susceptible to having been the influence of Kohli the captain. (There is a case to argue that it likely was.) After all, in the six white-ball matches led by Dhoni in the same period, ignoring the starting matches of series, merely two changes happened.

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It was nothing of the sort of dithering between batsmen of the same kind or bowlers of the same ilk as KXIP and previously India have tended to do. Unlike KXIP's, the concentration of powers in this system is not obvious. This piece of information gets us only as far as 'under Kohli, one of cricket's most reactive decision-makers, selection was erratic'.

It is wise, therefore, to consider Kumble's record as India captain.

In the 14 Test matches he captained, Kumble was known to being an excellent man-manager. Gautam Gambhir recently called him the best captain he has played under as did RP Singh. After the scandalous Monkeygate incident in Australia, Kumble famously pronounced that only 'one team was playing with the spirit of the game'.

Yet, in the 14 Tests India played, 20 swaps were made. This was despite playing mostly under the familiarity of home conditions, much like Kohli's team in 2016.

Five different options were tried at the top of the order, including Sehwag, Gambhir, Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik and Irfan Pathan. The pace-bowling spots teetered between four bowlers before finally zoning in on Ishant Sharma.

In the third Test against Pakistan in Bengaluru, a draw was greeted with four wholesome changes, but none were prompted by injuries. Crucially, the changes did not happen as a reaction to conditional asymmetry but in the middle of a series in which at least three spots in the batting order were occupied by demagoguish moguls.

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So, the short answer: should you be stumped by KXIP's selection inconsistencies? Depends on your belief in the flat-earth theory.

Long answer: scroll back and read again.

Click here to find todays IPL match score.

Published 12 Oct 2020, 03:14 IST
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