Enjoy our faster App experience

IPL 2022: Write Punjab Kings off at your own peril

If skipper Mayank Agarwal can rediscover his touch, RCB bowlers have a stiff task on hand, writes Ayaz Memon



Punjab Kings captain Mayank Agarwal. (BCCI)
Punjab Kings captain Mayank Agarwal. (BCCI)

By Ayaz Memon

Published: Fri 13 May 2022, 12:16 AM

Virat Kohli’s dismal form has been the talking point of IPL15. He’s had just one fifty, a string of single-digit scores and three golden ducks, including one in the previous match against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Ordinarily, such poor form would compel team management to bench or rest a player. But when someone like Kohli is concerned, there is always the hope that the next innings will be a match-winning one. That Royal Challengers Bangalore have been able to keep alive their prospects of winning a major title still alive without their main batsman contributing meaningfully is fascinating.

It shows the resolve and expertise to win are strong even if Kohli’s presence has been more like a lucky mascot than a match-winner. But approaching the end of the league phase, captain Faf du Plessis and the other team members would desperately want him to fire.

RCB have two matches remaining. If both are won, they would be in the playoffs, possibly also among the top two which is what every qualifying team aims for.

One win could get them into the last four, depending on how teams apart from the already-qualified Gujarat Titans and the Lucknow Super Kings fare over the next couple of days.

If both matches are lost, the issue would be decided on Net Run Rate between teams that finish on 14 points which could see RCB being bumped off, negating all the hard work done so far in the tournament, particularly in their previous two matches.

Both these were won emphatically. Not just the margin of victory, but key players hitting top form is what makes RCB favourites against Punjab Kings in tonight’s crucial clash.

Du Plessis has looked rock-solid, anchoring the innings from the start to almost the end, Rajat Patidar has batted in commanding style, and Dinesh Karthik has stormed back as an explosive finisher after a couple of poor scores.

Glenn Maxwell, if still not batting at his best, has picked up vital wickets which have given his side a grip on the proceedings. Other overseas stars Josh Hazlewood, Wanindu Hasaranga and Indian bowling all-rounder Harshal Patel have been consistently among the wickets.

The below-par performers have been Mohammed Siraj and Kohli. Siraj seemed to have found rhythm and control in the last two games, but Kohli’s misery has been unending.

RCB would be dying to see their former captain back in form. It would give the team a massive boost to reach the playoffs.

Punjab have been inconsistent this season. Their last match, against Rajasthan Royals, turned out to be a disaster, failing to defend 189 despite restricting Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson to modest scores.

Kagiso Rabada, who had been brilliant in preceding games, had an off-day and was plundered for 50 in his four overs.

Sandeep Sharma went for 41 and Rahul Chahar for 39 in 3.4 overs, allowing RR to scrape home in the last over.

While Punjab’s bowling is not the strongest in the competition, Rabada, Arshdeep Singh and Chahar can put opponents under pressure, especially if some early breakthroughs are achieved.

Batting is Punjab’s strong suit. Shikhar Dhawan, Jitesh Sharma and Liam Livingstone have been consistent run-getters.

Jonny Bairstow can be a major threat now that he has rediscovered his form.

If skipper Mayank Agarwal can rediscover his touch, RCB’s bowlers have a stiff task on hand. When the teams met earlier this season, Punjab had chased down 205 with aplomb. That threat still exists.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator


More news from Cricket