IPL 2022: Sunrisers, Punjab ponder what might have been

Both teams showed spark at various stages of the tournament — in different ways — only to fizzle out without living up to potential or expectations

By Ayaz Memon

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Punjab Kings captain Mayank Agarwal. — BCCI
Punjab Kings captain Mayank Agarwal. — BCCI

Published: Sat 21 May 2022, 11:55 PM

As they ready for this inconsequential match, both Sunrisers Hyderabad and Punjab Kings will brood with grave disappointment at what might have been.

Both teams showed spark at various stages of the tournament — in different ways — only to fizzle out without living up to potential or expectations.

Punjab Kings got off to a very good start, then hit a road bump, recovered only to fall again, then rose from despair to become a contender for a place in the playoffs, only to fizzle out in the last few games.

The flip-flop form of Punjab came through in the last five games played: Three were lost, some from strong positions. When it mattered most, the team didn’t deliver.

It is ironic that Punjab should have fared so poorly in spite of so many key players doing well. Shikhar Dhawan had a fine season, and is sixth among the highest run getters, at the time of writing this. Kagiso Rabada is third among bowlers.part from these two, Liam Livingstone was arguably the most potent all-rounder in the competition, and Jonny Bairstow hit bionic form in the last few matches.

Punjab yet failed because cohesive team performances were infrequent. For three fourths of the tournament, Bairstow was terribly out of form. Rabada too was tepid till the last fortnight. Rahul Chahar didn’t quite live up to the wicket-taking prowess expected of a frontline spinner. The biggest disappointments were captain Mayank Agarwal, whose form deserted him after the first few matches, plus big hitting Shah Rukh Khan and Odean Smith. Both who were paid top dollar in the mega auction, failed to live up to the hype. The wait for winning the IPL title got at least a year longer for Punjab.

While SRH too had an inconsistent season, it was in complete contrast to Punjab. In fact, SRH hit extremes. After losing the first couple of matches they hit a purple patch, winning five matches on the run. This took them to the top of the points table briefly, and even marked them out as potential champions for several experts.

Inexplicably, SRH nosedived from this supreme position, losing five matches on the trot, effectively scuttling their prospects of reaching the playoffs. Beating Mumbai in the next match was only a reminder of a golden opportunity squandered. SRH flopped despite their fast bowlers putting up a sterling performance throughout. Umran Malik became an instant star not only because he clocked 150kmph-plus consistently, but also picked up wickets regularly, especially in the five-match winning streak in which he bagged 15. He has 21 in all, which is superb for a youngster.

T Natarajan, with 18 wickets, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (12) and Marco Jansen (7) were also among the wickets, making it the most threatening pace attack in the tournament. What SRH lacked was a wicket-taking spinner, especially once the pitches started getting slower and showing wear and tear. Washington Sundar sat out some matches because of injury, but even when he played, did not have wicket-taking edge.

But SRH suffered most because of the abysmal form of skipper Kane Williamson. The celebrated Kiwi, among the best batsmen in the world, was totally off-colour, hardly making runs, and whatever he scored came at such a tardy strike rate as to be counter-productive.

Williamson’s struggles undid the splendid batting performances of young Indians Abhishek Sharma and Rahul Tripathi and, later also overseas stars Aiden Markram and Nicholas Pooran, when they hit their stripes.

It would have been prudent for Williamson to have dropped himself down the order to give more batting opportunities to those in form. He did that in the previous match against Mumbai, and though he still didn’t get a decent score, Tripathi, Sharma and Pooran batting above him, posted a winning total. Alas, all too late for redemption.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

Players To Watch Out For:

SRH: Abhishek Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umran Malik

PBKS: Jonny Bairstow, Shikhar Dhawan, Kagiso Rabada

Key contests: Bhuvneshwar Kumar v Jonny Bairstow, Kagiso Rabada v Abhishek Sharma

X Factor: Liam Livingstone

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