Kings XI Punjab: From table toppers to wooden spooners

Last year, Punjab won 11 games and lost three. This year, the numbers remained the same, but the wins and the losses were interchanged.

Kings XI Punjab: From table toppers to wooden spooners

From table toppers to the wooden spoon in the space of a year, Kings XI Punjab's downward descent in Pepsi Indian Premier League 2015 wasn't pretty to watch. The Twenty20 format is a fickle one, of course, but the team seemed to suffer from a case of collective vertigo.

Last year, Punjab won 11 and lost three games. This year, the numbers remained the same, but the wins and the losses were interchanged. Batting collapses, dropped catches and wayward bowling became such a regular feature that even the ever-cheerful George Bailey once flung his bat in anger.

The bowling was Punjab's weak point last season, conceding 190-plus on five occasions. But the brilliance in their batting papered over those cracks. This year, the batting failed and the bowling looked all the more rudderless as a result. Mitchell Johnson didn't quite operate with control last year either, but this year the numbers were significantly worse: nine wickets in nine games at an economy rate of 9.37. By the time the management decided to move on and hand Beuran Hendricks a chance, Punjab had already been left behind in the playoff rat race.

The rot in the batting started at the top with the opening combination never really clicking. Virender Sehwag had started poorly in the previous season, but was able to make amends with a vintage 122 off 58 balls that took the team to the final. This season, patience eventually ran out as he only played in eight games. M Vijay, wasn't able to provide the fiery start that the openers in the opposition were dishing out on a regular basis.

The struggle continued at the No. 3 spot. Wriddhiman Saha, who impressed with a century in the final last season, couldn't replicate his heroics this year. He found some success opening the innings against Royal Challengers Bangalore but by then, Punjab's campaign had nearly ended and they were left to ponder the what-ifs.

The biggest disappointment, though, for both the team and the fans was the form of Glenn Maxwell. To say he had a poor tournament would be an understatement. In 11 games, he only mustered 145 runs. Having started with scores of 95, 98 and 95 last year, the law of averages caught up with him as he didn't last more than five balls in his first three innings this season.

Maxwell later admitted that he struggled because his motivation levels dipped after winning the 2015 World Cup and he didn't have the same readiness to play every IPL game. It was no surprise that Punjab's fortunes mirrored Maxwell's.

The only bright spot for the side was David Miller, who finished as the highest run-getter for the side with 357 runs, but he batted too low to make a difference. Every time he arrived at the crease, the side was already down the rabbit hole. His unbeaten 89 off 44 balls nearly took Punjab across the line against Sunrisers Hyderabad, but there was never enough support for him at the other end. The knock prompted David Warner, the opposition captain, to say that Miller was the only batsman aside from AB de Villiers he would pay to watch. But unlike Bangalore, who realised de Villiers was being wasted down the order and promoted him to No. 3, Punjab refused to see merit in slotting Miller at higher than No. 5.

Punjab were essentially a team stuck in 2014 and they paid the price for it. That they found their cupboard was bare as Mother Hubbard's could be traced back to the IPL auction in February. While other franchises spent wisely at the auction, Punjab were relatively comatose. They bought only three players - the least among all the teams - with Vijay their biggest buy. There's a lot to learn from this season, and one can probably expect Punjab to be a lot more awake in the next auction.

Team Rankings

1 Australia 3028 116
2 New Zealand 2406 115
3 India 3085 114
4 England 3882 105
5 Sri Lanka 2454 91
FULL Ranking
1 England 5405 123
2 India 5819 119
3 New Zealand 3716 116
4 Australia 3941 109
5 South Africa 3345 108
FULL Ranking
1 Australia 6047 275
2 England 5959 271
3 India 9319 266
4 Pakistan 6009 261
5 South Africa 4380 258
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