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How badly Punjab Kings have been affected with their last defeat could hold the key to this match against Mumbai Indians. Against Gujarat Titans, they looked on course to a win till it all changed dramatically in the last three deliveries of the match.
On the fourth ball, with GT needing 13 runs, Odean Smith conceded an overthrow trying to run out Rahul Tewatia, who was at the non-striker’s end. It was not just a poor throw, but a thoughtless one too. Had Smith kept his composure and not conceded the single, Gujarat would have needed 13 off two deliveries, which would have been next to impossible. The single allowed Tewatia to get to the striker’s end. The remaining two deliveries he smacked for sixes to pull off an incredible win, easily the most exhilarating so far this tournament, left Punjab beaten and broken.
Till that stunning defeat, Punjab had been performing well. In their opening match, they chased down 205 made by Royal Challengers Bangalore, and in the next two games, notched up another win to be in the top half of the points table, till unexpectedly choking against Gujarat.
Not getting two points was the immediate setback but not the only one. The larger issue was the impact on the morale of the team. Such an agonising defeat can take a heavy toll of players, individually and collectively, dent confidence and have an adverse effect on performances going ahead.
Apart from Royal Challengers Bangalore, Punjab are the only other old team never to have won the title — not because of shortage of talent but absence of self-belief. In previous seasons, they have shown a propensity to crumble in high-pressure situations, and Mumbai will be hoping that they can exploit the current vulnerable position of their opponents to their own advantage.
However, this must be juxtaposed with the fact that the five-time former champions themselves are in the doldrum. Four defeats in as many matches is tell-tale about pathetic performances. MI have been terribly below par, much like CSK, and will be under harsh scrutiny when they take the field on Wednesday evening. The pressure on Rohit Sharma and his team will be no less than it is on Punjab. If anything, it will be even greater.
Going by performances so far this season, Punjab compare favourably with the former champions in all key areas. Mayank Agarwal and Shikhar Dhawan have been a far more impressive opening pair than Rohit and Ishan Kishan who have flattered to deceive. While Suryakumar Yadav has been brilliant in the middle order, he’s about the only one to make some impression for MI, while Punjab have quite a few batsmen in very good form — Liam Livingstone, Jonny Bairstow and Bhanuka Rajapaksa. Add to this, Shah Rukh Khan and Odean Smith — somewhat hit and miss, but have delivered more than Kieron Pollard as a finisher. In bowling too, despite the mishap against Gujarat, Punjab have looked far better than Mumbai. Spearhead Kagiso Rabada has been among the wickets with young Arshdeep Singh and Vaibhav Arora splendid in support. Rahul Chahar, formerly with MI, has been perhaps the most impressive leg spinner in the tournament yet, this year.
If Punjab can shrug off the demoralising effect of the defeat to Gujarat and regroup quickly, Mumbai have a serious struggle on hand.
While T20 is a highly unpredictable format, the portents are ominous and Mumbai’s future in IPL 15 hangs by a slender thread. There is no easy formula for the former champions to effect a turnaround. It could come in changes in playing XI, batting order, tactics, or whatever. What it won’t come from is pointless brooding which can lead to paralysis by analysis. To retain their relevance in the tournament, Mumbai must borrow credo of a famous sports brand and Just Do It!
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator
MI: Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, M Ashwin
PBKS: Shikhar Dhawan, Rahul Chahar, Kagiso Rabada
X Factor: Kieron Pollard
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