Kings XI Punjab's Bowling Cost Them IPL 7 Title, Not Misusing Maxwell and Miller

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2014

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16: Mitchell Johnson bowls during an Australian nets session at The Gabba on January 16, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

At the end of the powerplay in Sunday's IPL 7 final, the Kolkata Knight Riders had reached 59-1. Both the number itself and the manner in which it was achieved were significant. 

With little fuss and even less risk, Gautam Gambhir and Manish Pandey had gobbled up the kind offerings from the Kings XI Punjab. A six hadn't been struck. An audacious shot hadn't even been attempted—they simply weren't needed

For Twenty20 cricket, it was almost mundane. 

But such was the lack of pressure applied by George Bailey's seamers that the Knight Riders were essentially gifted the game's initiative in their three-wicket victory for the title. Without even breaking out of third gear, the Kolkata pair raced along at 10 runs per over by merely dispatching half-volleys. 

Perhaps most telling was the dot-ball count. In the opening six overs, the Kings XI bowled just eight dot balls, one of which was the wicket of Robin Uthappa. The Knight Riders bowled 19 in the same period. 

What came to haunt the men in red in the Indian Premier League final was the side's seam-bowling issues—rather than the curious use of Glenn Maxwell and David Miller—that have lingered throughout this tournament. 

Rajanish Kakade/Associated Press

Examining the IPL final's scorecard makes for difficult reading for the Kings XI. A top-order player thumped a sublime hundred, a target of 200 was set, the opposition's best batsman didn't reach double figures, an impressive spinner conceded less than a run-a-ball and another claimed four wickets. 

Yet somehow they were defeated. Convincingly, really, given that KKR needed just 21 from the last 18 deliveries. 

But it really shouldn't have come as a surprise.

Throughout the league phase, Punjab conceded more runs than any other side, including Kevin Pietersen's miserable Delhi Daredevils outfit. In the second qualifier of the playoffs, it took an incredible run out from Bailey to ensure 226 was defended after Suresh Raina had thumped Chennai to 100 inside the powerplay.

The Maxwell and Miller show—as well as a dose of Virender Sehwag—had done as much as possible to cover the team's major flaw. But tournament finals have a habit for exposing notable deficiencies. This IPL finale was no exception.

Indeed, on Sunday, the Kings XI characteristically piled on 199. But this was the tournament's worst bowling side trying to defend at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium—the worst venue in world cricket in which to do so. 

A rather straight-forward cruise to the finish line ensued for Gambhir's surging team. 

Saurabh Das/Associated Press

Bailey will no doubt look back to the failures of his seamers when examining his side's loss on Sunday evening. Mitchell Johnson (10.25 runs per over), Lakshmipathy Balaji (10.25) and Parvinder Awana (12.28) were simply unable to operate with any precision. Of course, Karanveer Singh was more expensive again (13.50), but it's difficult to expect a leg-spinner to contain on a small ground after the opposing batsmen have already struck a groove amid porous resistance. 

But Bailey would be wise to look back further to trace his side's downfall.

Across the entire duration of this season's IPL, the Punjab seamers that took part in the final were alarmingly expensive. In fact, at 8.29 runs per over, Johnson was the most economical of the bowlers who took part on Sunday. Balaji was half a run worse at 8.79, while Awana recorded an abysmal figure of 10.42.

Like competing for Premier League titles without a solid back four, or challenging for NBA and NFL crowns without a suffocating defence, it's extremely difficult to lift limited-overs cricket trophies without the ability to defend.

Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press

But what if Maxwell and Miller had their say, rather than being held back by Bailey? Could the Kings XI total have been bigger and out of sight for Kolkata?

Quite possibly, but that misses the key point.

Identifying issues with the Punjab batting performance on Sunday is like criticising a football team's strikers in a 5-4 loss. You simply should be able to defend that. Totals of 199 should win T20 matches 19 times out of 20. 

Yet, on this occasion, it didn't. It was a recurring theme for Kings XI that became the culprit.

As Bailey and his team-mates learned in Bangalore, tournament finals have a habit for witnessing just that.


All statistics courtesy of ESPNcricinfo.