The two men responsible for the brilliant turn-around of Kings XI Punjab
Here’s how Chris Gayle and Anil Kumble have played a big part in revival of the KL Rahul-led team in IPL 2020
Kings XI Punjab are an unpredictable team, to say the least. Having had an absolutely nightmarish start to the IPL 2020, the team is now showing glimmers of its fantastic talent and ability. All eyes are already set on Punjab’s next clash with Sunrisers Hyderabad on Saturday evening, as people are now eager to see whether KXIP can keep up the winning momentum they have worked so hard to perfect.
Apart from skipper KL Rahul, who has been nothing short of amazing this season, and fellow Karnataka opener Mayank Agarwal, the rest of the team hadn’t quite stepped up to the challenge laid out before them. Until last week.
Starting their second half of the tournament with hopes of some sort of comeback and respite from all the criticism, the Kings made a solid statement by grounding the high-flying Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore. Punjab came out on top against RCB with a comprehensive victory by 8 wickets. However, people made little of this victory as Punjab had humbled Bangalore in their first meeting on Sept. 24 too, which was also their only positive result in the first 7 matches they played.
Then came the big surprise. Rohit Sharma-led four time IPL champions Mumbai Indians were favourites to win their encounter against KXIP on Oct. 18, but it was KL Rahul’s boys who came out on top. After almost 4 hours of play and two gruelling Super Overs, the first instance of this happening in the history of IPL, Punjab snatched 2 points from the brink of defeat, courtesy a brilliant first Super Over by Mohammed Shami, who restricted Rohit Sharma and Quinton De Kock to just 5 runs, while defending 6.
After this victory, Kings XI Punjab were now level on points with Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings, something no one would have expected after their dismal losses in the beginning. On Oct. 20, KXIP were up against table toppers Delhi Capitals, who are enjoying a splendid season with 7 wins out of 10 games. Punjab yet again startled everyone as they restricted DC to a below par total of 164/5, before chasing down the score with 5 wickets in hand and one over to spare. Suddenly, the Kings are 5th on the points table, knocking on the doors to the playoffs in search of a spot, which suddenly doesn’t seem too improbable.
One major factor behind Punjab’s sudden success will definitely have to be Christopher Henry Gayle. The big hitting T20 superstar missed out the first half of the tournament due to various fitness and health issues, and Punjab managed just 1 win from 7 matches. But now that the self proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ is back, Punjab have won all three matches in which Gayle has been present, not to mention that those three wins came against the top three ranked teams on the table. Be it his ability to regularly clear the fence irrespective of the boundary size, or just his intimidating record in the shortest format, bringing Chris Gayle into the side has worked wonders for Punjab.
Another man responsible for this revival would obviously have to be Anil Kumble, the Kings XI Punjab head coach. The former India spin maestro seems to be weaving his magic onto young spinners such as Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin as well. Bishnoi has been the little ray of sunshine through all the dark times that KXIP have gone through over the past month. His consistency, along with that of Murugan Ashwin, and their ability to restrict the batsman to ones and twos and picking up wickets in the process is indeed remarkable. Playing under a man with 619 Test wickets to his name is certainly a mouth watering opportunity that these two young spinners are making full use of, with their economy rates being an impressive 7.91 and 7.80, respectively. Fast bowlers like the seasoned Mohammed Shami and the newcomer Arshdeep Singh seem to have found their rhythm too.
On the batting front, it has been a KL Rahul show all along. The 28-year-old has made a mind boggling 540 runs in 10 innings with 5 fifties and is currently the highest run scorer of the tournament. Mayank Agarwal has shown that he is an able partner and can be the aggressor when needed. Nicholas Pooran has shown glimpses of his genius in a few matches, and Glenn Maxwell seems to have finally found some sort of form with a 24 ball 32 against the Capitals, his highest score of this edition of the IPL.
Punjab now seem to be a complete team. Though regular run scorers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal were unable to fire in the last match, Punjab was still the better team and won the encounter with significant ease.
With the odds finally in Punjab’s favour and the other players stepping up to the task, KL Rahul will be a happy captain and will be eyeing a spot in the playoffs. This is something he wouldn’t have thought about a week ago but he can now have the liberty to target, courtesy the brilliant comeback this team has made.