Despite boasting of some serial match-winners, KL Rahul’s team Punjab made a disappointing start to the 2020 Indian T20 League season, winning just one of their opening seven games before going on a five-game unbeaten run. That was, however, too little too late as they couldn’t avoid finishing below the playoffs spot.
The team made several, yet significant, changes to the team ahead of the new season, with the biggest one being the release of Glenn Maxwell. Apart from the Aussie, the team also got rid of Sheldon Cottrell, Jimmy Neesham and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman. Filling in the void were England’s Dawid Malan (Rs 1.5 crore) and Australia Jhye Richardson (Rs 14 crore) amongst others, but will it be enough to overcome all the issues the team had last season?
That being said, here we look at what Punjab needs to put more efforts into.
The middle-order failure
Let’s be honest here. Punjab’s only strength last year was their openers, KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. The two, put together, scored 1094 runs and apart from the duo, no one from the team contributed to the plate. One can argue about Nicholas Pooran’s contribution of 353 runs at a strike rate of 169.71, but the rest showed no signs of positivity whatsoever. This has made chasing a total a big issue for the team. In fact, last season the team won just three of their eight games while chasing; two of which were super-over wins over Delhi and Mumbai, while one was a last-ball finish against Bangalore.
|Runs scored by middle-order (#4-#7) in Indian T20 League 2020|
Death over troubles
The likes of Mohammad Shami and Sheldon Cottrell looked in decent form early in the 2020 campaign, but as the season progressed, the onus came solely on Mohammad Shami, and while the pacer was at his usual best, lack of support meant Punjab were one of the worst bowling units in the death overs. One can rightly remember the game when Cottrell was hit for five sixes in an over by Rajasthan’s Rahul Tewatia. Against Mumbai, both Shami and James Neesham were hit for runs by Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya.
The stark contrast between his bowling and his teammates can be laid down with the fact that while he had 20 wickets to his name, the second-best bowler from the team was Ravi Bishnoi with 12 wickets.
Now, the arrival of Richardson and Riley Meredith, and the retention of Chris Jordan sure eases the burden, but if the team actually decide to go with these front-line pacers, they will have limited foreign options while batting. This is where Arshdeep Singh, Harpreet Brar and Prabhsimran Singh come into picture. They may very well not be the safest options in the death overs, but the team do have alternatives to look at this season.
Were Punjab the most inconsistent side last season? Without a doubt. Their top-three batsmen scored 1550 runs last season, which was the most by any team’s top-order. This figure, in fact, accounted for a whopping 69.13% of the team’s total runs (1550/2242), but that was actually it for the team. The team mostly relied on individual genius rather than the collective effort which was their eventual downfall. This season, however, things could be different in many ways given that they have Dawid Malan and all-rounder Moises Henriques in the team. The only thing that the team needs is to work on is sensible foreign selections.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Sajjad Hussain