Their overreliance on their only 2 Indian International bowlers mounted additional pressure on their batsmen.
It was déjà vu for Kings XI Punjab as they went into their final league game with nothing to lose. Their convincing win over the mighty CSK in Mohali meant nothing in terms of playoff chances but it showed how good they could be. Like 2018, they had a strong start to the IPL but strings of losses meant they faded away in the end to finish 7th. But unlike last year, they lost most of these matches closely and at key moments Punjab let it slip.
Batting Stepped Up this time
On most days they would’ve chased 160 odd in Chennai which happened earlier in the season. From a comfortable position, the set batsmen took the chase too deep without accelerating and that cost them the match. But otherwise they stood up in most times, late accelerations from Curran and Ashwin led KXIP to good scores in 2 separate matches. Chris Gayle will finish in the Top 10 IPL run-getters list even after the playoffs are over (extra matches for those batsmen who play) and Rahul will finish in the Top 5. Sarfaraz Khan, David Miller, Agarwal and Pooran stepped up on occasions as well. There are not much excuses as a bowling group when 3 of your batsmen have scored more than 300 runs.
One aspect that has hurt them the most is their overreliance on R Ashwin’s economy and Mohammed Shami’s strike/rate. Sam Curran has picked up wickets at key moments in a few matches, being the game changer. But the rate at which batsmen scored off him meant average was much higher than ideal for a 3rd bowler. The other bowlers were pretty much indifferent, except for a couple of performances here and there.
Ashwin’s excellent IPL haul
Ravichandran Ashwin’s bowling form in this edition of IPL is one of the positives for Kings XI. Unlike last season where he was economical without much wickets, he almost picked a wicket every match. The major difference in his bowling this year is the exponential increase in carrom balls to the right handed batsmen. His control over his variations was at an all-time high this season, and hence the increase in carrom balls. All this has contributed to his excellent stats in IPL 12. 15 wickets at an average of 26.66 and a strike rate of 22, plus an economy of 7.27, the numbers speak for themselves.
But where Kings XI will have to improve on next season is the statistics of the bowlers other than Shami and Ashwin. The Kings XI skipper and his lead pacer have a combined record of 34 wickets at an average of 27.58, a strike rate of 19.23 and an economy of 7.97. Most times when two of your best bowlers have done this well together, you do very well as a team. But where it has gone downhill for them is the overall performances of the other members.
Lack of Support
The rest of the bowlers in total have picked up just 37 wickets at a poor average of 43.21, an unimpressive strike rate of 27.78 and a high economy of 9.33. The support structure hasn’t quite collapsed but it has been bent, and that’s where quite a few leaks emerged as the season wore on. Then again Kings XI’s performance in the auction was rate as average at best and this was probably why. Quite a few players in this team played their first IPLs and some of them, their first tournament in India. CV Varun’s injury also meant they had to play a foreign spinner and an Indian pacer had to play. The 2nd Indian pacer was one of the weak links in the bowling attack.
Ankit Rajpoot was very expensive except on a few occasions but Arshdeep did better, especially at the death. Saying that Andrew Tye was below par whenever he played and that was another blow to Punjab’s plan. These factors contributed to their inability to defend par and sometimes par plus scores. That in turn was one of the major factors responsible for their dip in performance in the tournament’s second half.