3 min read.Updated: 25 Apr 2016, 12:34 PM ISTAnand Vasu
Punjab have only one win from five matches and are in last place, while Mumbai, two places above, could slip if Pune beat Kolkata on Sunday night
In cricket, there is often plenty of talk about teams in transition, but, as with so many other things, the Indian Premier League has thrown up a variant on the theme. In Mohali, a day before their Monday (April 25) clash, Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians were teams in transit. Literally.
Mumbai, who contrived to lose against Delhi Daredevils, in New Delhi, on Saturday afternoon, and Punjab, who comfortably gave up a chase to Sunrisers Hyderabad, in Hyderabad, are as far away from the top of the table as teams could be so early in the tournament.
Punjab have only one win from five matches and are in last place, while Mumbai, two places above, could slip if Rising Pune Supergiants beat Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday night.
In that sense, these are two teams that have a lot in common. For starters, both are looking for inspiration. While holders Mumbai have not looked completely out of sorts, they have missed that spark that allows teams to put together a sequence of wins. Punjab’s problems appear more severe, with several players short on form, and runs.
It is at times like this in the Indian Premier League that the role of the coaching staff becomes crucial. Just as Gary Kirsten provided the man management which was the perfect foil to the tactical nous and on-field control of a Mahendra Singh Dhoni and more recently Ravi Shastri brought confidence and a perpetually positive outlook to a Virat Kohli finding his feet, but not necessarily the results early on, there is a need for the support staff of Mumbai and Punjab to keep the flock together.
Every IPL team has more than 20 players, which means that apart from a core group of perhaps seven or eight, there will be others who either get the odd game only, or not even that. For the players who are sitting around, desperate for an opportunity, the restlessness can quickly turn to resentment when their team is racking up loss after loss and they still do not get a look-in.
It is here that Sanjay Bangar will have to constantly engage with his squad, reminding them that each game is different, and perhaps lost for a different reason, and that the management went into each game picking the best XI that they believed would give them the highest chance of succeeding. It is here that Bangar must take David Miller, Punjab’s captain, aside and underscore the need for him to take charge of his team at large, but think purely as a marquee player who needs to power his team when he has a bat in hand.
The variation on the theme in the Mumbai camp is that the support staff need to convince Rohit Sharma—who is tactically sharp and aggressive on the field as captain – to back himself to make the equally difficult decisions when it comes to picking his team. As much of a proven match-winner as Kieron Pollard is, he is by no means a player who should never be left out, especially when he is clearly struggling with fitness. In the last match, there was an ideal opportunity perhaps to pick Corey Anderson, who brings the same explosiveness, and additionally left-handedness, which might’ve helped counter Delhi’s twin leg spinners.
It is on such things that a team’s fortunes may change in the IPL, turning an insipid campaign into an inspired one. And both Punjab and Mumbai will be hoping the turnaround starts in right earnest in the next game. Unfortunately, this can only be true for one of these teams.
Kings XI Punjab: David Miller (capt), Axar Patel, Anureet Singh, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Manan Vohra, M Vijay, Nikhil Naik (wk), Rishi Dhawan, Sandeep Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Mohit Sharma, Marcus Stoinis, Kyle Abbott, KC Cariappa, Armaan Jaffer, Pardeep Sahu, Swapnil Singh, Farhaan Behardien.