POINTS TABLE | FIXTURES
Languishing at the bottom of the table a week ago, the Punjab unit, led by KL Rahul and his inspired batting, has shown teeth lately in all departments to come back into reckoning.
In his column for The Times of India on Thursday, noted cricket expert and commentator Harsha Bhogle listed the reasons that have made Punjab the “dangerous” team they always promised to be.
“You can see now why they were deemed a dangerous team at the start of the tournament,” Bhogle wrote. “Chris Gayle has led the revival by offering a robust follow-up to the outstanding opening combination and letting the ridiculously gifted (Nicholas) Pooran play freely.
“When you have those two, the opposition is always concerned, especially if Pooran is free to play the match-winner’s role with the bat.”
Gayle hit a half-century to announce his late arrival to the IPL following an illness and Pooran’s fifty against Delhi in KXIP’s last match completed the team’s three wins on the bounce to storm up to their current fifth position in the points table.
Punjab have eight points from four wins in their 10 matches, with four more to play.
Bhogle went on to add two more “areas of note”, which have helped Punjab churn out those wins they narrowly missed in the first half of the season.
“There are two other areas of note: one they have handled well and one they have benefited from. Let us look at the second first: Mohammed Shami.
“Some of his end-overs bowling has been at par with the very best in the world, and defending five in a Super Over (against Mumbai Indians) is the stuff of a legend. (Jasprit) Bumrah and Shami in that Super Over will be one of the highlights of this tournament,” Bhogle reckoned, before mentioning the second reason.
“They have also handled (Glenn) Maxwell wonderfully. We are talking of an extraordinary T20 cricketer who just slips into Russian Roulette sometimes. You don’t know if he is going to fire a bullet or a blank. Most teams would have dropped him by now,” he added.
Maxwell had a forgettable tournament until his four-over spell of 1/31 followed by a 24-ball 32 against Delhi.
“(KXIP) Offered him a Powerplay bowling option (against Delhi). I have always rated his ability to bowl fast off-breaks from round the wicket and with that string to his bow working, the confidence has started returning. I won’t be surprised if he delivers a match-winning performance with the bat soon,” Bhogle further wrote.
He then rounded off his opinion by highlighting one last missing link in the Punjab armoury.
“If they can find a balanced line-up that allows them to play another fast bowler with Shami, I think it would complete the team. They are struggling with that and hence are choosing to bolster the batting with Jimmy Neesham, an exquisite striker, but more a batsman than a bowler.
“This Punjab revival has been excellent for the tournament which ran the risk of the top four teams separating themselves from the rest,” Bhogle concluded.