For a team that had reached the semi-finals only once before, Kings XI Punjab featuring in the IPL 7 final was a big achievement in itself. But, having come so far, they would have been disappointed to have gone down to Kolkata Knight Riders on the big day. For a majority of the league phase, Punjab were the most dominant of all sides in the event; their performances reflected in their league standing as they finished on top of the table. Going into the final though, they were the second favourites to win since Kolkata had been the one team to have gotten the better of them in previous encounters.
In the big final, it was their bowling that let them down. In the previous matches, Punjab’s batting had faltered against the guile of Sunil Narine and co. On Sunday, batting first, they overcame their inhibitions against a strong Kolkata bowling. But, their bowling just did not have the requisite resources to stop the Kolkata batting even though they were defending a massive total of 200 in the final. Kolkata did bat exceptionally well to chase down the Punjab score, but George Bailey would be mighty disappointed with his bowlers’ efforts.
Except for left-arm spinner Akshar Patel, who once again stood out with his economical bowling, not giving anything away, the rest simply struggled to stop the flow of runs. The decision to play Laxmipathy Balaji ahead of Sandeep Sharma in the final was a bold one, but one fraught with risk. Sharma was one the of leading wicket-takers in the event, but had been struggling recently. Balaji, however, wasn’t in the scheme of things in the last few matches and, out of nowhere, was recalled for the summit clash. He had the experience, even so it was a massive ask for him, and he faltered.
Even more disappointing was the performance of the seasoned Mitchell Johnson. He sprayed the ball all around, but significantly, when he had a chance to make amends in the penultimate over, he messed up things. Kolkata needed 11 off 7 deliveries, and it was simple logic that Johnson had to fire one in into the block hole. Instead, he dug one in short and Piyush Chawla smashed him for a six. That was the delivery where Punjab completely lost the match. With his experience, Johnson should have known better.
The spin of Karanveer Singh claimed four wickets, but he also conceded the maximum amount of runs. He just did not know how to stop the flow of runs. The batsmen hit him for sixes with ease, and Singh only made matters worse for the team by bowling some atrocious deliveries. Parvinder Awana had impressed in some earlier games, but even he was disappointing on Sunday. To put it succinctly, as a bowling outfit, Punjab were a completely failure, and it cost them the IPL 7 title, as Wriddhiman Saha’s superb ton went in vain.
--By A Cricket Analyst