New Delhi: What started as a rosy affair for Kings XI Punjab in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has now gone downhill as the tournament reaches it's business end.
Kings XI began their 2019 campaign on a very good note, winning three of their first four matches. They seemed to be in control of their batting with the likes of KL Rahul and Chris Gayle coming into their own and scoring runs - that too at a brisk rate. Their bowling also seemed to be in fine fettle with seasoned campaigners like R. Ashwin and Mohammed Shami taking wickets at crucial junctures and also not allowing the opposition batters to score big.
However, in their last eight matches, the tide seems to have turned for the Punjab-based franchise as they managed to win just three games and went down towards the bottom of the points table.
The reasons for Punjab's decline can be many. However, as pointed out by Ashwin after the loss against KKR on Friday, what has hurt Punjab the most is injuries sustained by its key players, the ineffectiveness of their overseas fast bowlers and an inability to win key moments in the powerplay overs.
"We had a few challenges going into this year from last year, we had a few options, we picked up a few people (at the auction) and they've got injured. So that's not ideally how we'd like to look at it," said Ashwin.
"We definitely put our best team we could in the park and we've tried our best and there have been a lot of positives that have come out of this season.
"One of the areas we've definitely lacked is the powerplay, both with the ball and the bat - in hindsight if we look at it. Because last year we had a great powerplay batting with Chris [Gayle] and KL [Rahul] but this year we couldn't get off to great starts obviously because the pressure was on them and they had to do a job," he added.
For Kings XI, Rahul has scored the chunk of the runs, amassing 522 in the 13 matches he has played. Seeing these numbers, nobody can question his performance and can say that he has been rightly included in the India World Cup squad.
However, if one makes a deeper analysis of his performance, one finds that his strike rate has been significantly lower in this IPL edition as compared to the previous years. His strike rate has been around 130 which is less than his overall IPL strike rate of 137.
One of the examples of his slow scoring was when while chasing 161 against CSK, Rahul scored 55 runs off 47 balls at a strike rate of 117 and many criticised him as Kings XI lost the match by 22 runs.
If we talk about Gayle, his performance can be termed as a subdued version of what one expects from the big-hitting West Indian. Although he has scored 462 runs in the 12 innings he has played, the Jamaican has failed to deliver those match-winning knocks which Kings XI needed from him on a consistent basis in the tournament.
When it comes to bowling, Punjab have failed to pick up wickets during the powerplay, thus allowing the opposition to post big totals.
With 10 points from 13 games, they are now all but out of contention for a place in the playoffs. Mathematically, they can still finish in the last four if they win their last encounter against table toppers CSK and the match results of all the other teams go in their favour, but it is definitely their own doing that KXIP's fortune has nose-dived this season after a brilliant start.