4 seasons and as many 6th-placed finishes for Punjab Kings. The former finalists ended their IPL 2022 season on a winning note and leapfrogged Kolkata Knight Riders to the sixth spot in the league table but they finished another campaign with the feeling of ‘what could have been’, again.
Punjab Kings were out of the race for the playoffs before even they played their final league game on Sunday, May 22.
Despite losing their consistent scorer and captain KL Rahul before the mega auction, PBKS managed to assemble a strong side on paper. Filled with power-hitters and a more-than-decent bowling attack, it looked like PBKS would end their long wait for a berth in the playoffs. However, under Mayank Agarwal, PBKS flattered to deceive, once again.
After beginning their season with a thumping win over their familiar foes, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Punjab Kings struggled for consistency throughout the season. In fact, PBKS were the only team to finish the season without winning two matches on the trot in the new season.
COACH KUMBLE FLOUNDERS AGAIN
Head coach Anil Kumble will certainly be under pressure as PBKS failed to get going despite hitting the reboot button. Kumble has worked with 3 different captains at PBKS — R Ashwin, Rahul and Mayank – but the playoffs berth remains elusive.
PBKS have always fiddled with their combinations and come up with inexplicable batting order shuffling in the IPL. After having spent big on Odean Smith, the big-hitting West Indies all-rounder was not backed enough. Smith played just 6 matches in the season.
On the other hand, Shahrukh Khan, who was in impressive form in the white-ball domestic season, struggled for form and backing from the team management. After playing 7 matches, he was benched before returning for their final league game, a dead rubber, against SunRisers Hyderabad.
Punjab Kings also left it a little too late to find their ideal combination. PBKS’ decision to play Jonny Barstow in the middle-order made little sense and by the time they made the change, there was pressure on the side. Mayank’s ordinary form with the bat at the top made the decision easier but the captain struggled to get going in the middle-order as well, finishing the season just 196 runs in 13 matches – the first time since 2018 he ended an IPL season without at least 300 runs.
PBKS had the strongest power-hitting line-up in the season and they followed a one-way approach with a power-hitting coach as part of their support staff.
While the ‘England way’ of playing T20 cricket works, PBKS’ inability to zero in on a settled unit made it difficult for them to execute plans. More often than not, PBKS lacked controlled aggression and game awareness in the batting department.
Captain Mayank Agarwal best-described their approach with the bat after they hammered SunRisers by 5 wickets in the last league game, chasing 158 with 29 balls to spare.
“…With the brand of cricket we played, there are going to be times it won’t come off and we won’t look good. We couldn’t stitch back-to-back wins. As a batting unit, we lost wickets in a cluster,” Mayank told Star Sports.
POSITIVES FROM SEASON
One of the biggest positives to have emerged for PBKS this season is Liam Livingstone’s rise as a feared big-hitter in the IPL. After flattering to deceive at Rajasthan Royals last year, Livingstone enjoyed the opportunity to bat higher-up the order for PBKS.
He scored 437 runs, including 4 fifties, in 14 matches at a staggering strike rate of over 180. Livingstone was the biggest six-hitter of the season as PBKS rode on his heroics, more often than not, to clinch points.
Livingstone also bowled more than 20 overs and picked up 6 wickets for PBKS.
The performance of the local stars was also praiseworthy. While Arshdeep Singh continued to be excellent with the ball, especially at the death, young Jitesh Sharma was impressive after getting an opportunity to keep wickets and bat in the lower-middle order.
Arshdeep picked up only 10 wickets in 14 matches, but numbers don’t do justice to the impact that he had at the death for PBKS. Arshdeep conceded at only 7.70 throughout the season and was labelled as the best death-overs specialist of the season by their leading wicket-taker and South Africa star Kagiso Rabada.
Jitesh showcased he is a fearless customer in the end overs, striking at 163 and amassing 234 runs in 12 matches.
WHAT NEXT FOR PBKS?
Punjab Kings have the firepower to challenge the best in the business, but it’s important that they settle into an ideal combination and rhythm early into the season. A good season with the bat for captain Mayank could prove to be a game-changer for PBKS.
It remains to be seen if Anil Kumble will retain his position next season as consistency with plans and team selection was lacking from the former finalists who last reached the final four in 2014.