The five-match winning run of the Punjab Kings XI finally came to an end at the hands of the Chennai Super Kings. The match was well poised after Chennai set a target of 182 but the Mohali side’s chase fizzled out quite early and the Super Kings romped home comfortably.
At the post match prize distribution, the losing captain – Yuvraj Singh was as articulate as a country bumpkin in a technology conference. That he rather conveniently and ungraciously forgot to credit his ex-India colleague – Laxmipathy Balaji is totally unpardonable. That he also forgot the time-honoured tradition of congratulating the winning captain – MS Dhoni, smacks of his personal frustration at losing out to the Jharkhand lad in the superstar sweepstakes. He also failed to acknowledge the tactical mistakes that probably cost his team the game. The tactical blunders are also reflective of his limitations as a captain at this level.
182 was a very competitive target. Mohali needed to get off to a flier. James Hopes started off with a bang but got out in the second over itself. So who did Yuvraj send out to maintain the momentum? He sent Karan Goel – one of the two batsmen in the Punjab side whose strike rate in this form of the game is less than 100. Was he the best pinch hitter around, with Pathan and Chawla in the ranks? Or was Yuvi giving Goel a chance to run into form? The youngster having been in poor form off late. Whatever might have been the reason for his promotion, Goel ensured it was not justified by scoring 1 off seven balls and repeatedly frustrating a red-hot Shaun Marsh by staying on strike.
It was imperative that Yuvraj came in after Goel’s dismissal. As the captain and best batsman of the side, the stage was set for him to take charge. This is exactly what all captains, who are batsmen, do all the time.
Instead Mr Genius sent out the other batsman in the Punjab side whose strike rate in Twenty-20 is again less than 100 – Ramnaresh Sarwan! If Yuvraj was not courageous enough to face the situation, he should have sent out Mahela Jayawardene and not Sarwan. I cannot fathom what Yuvraj was waiting for. By making an entry in the fifth over itself, he would have been able to give himself a little time to get settled in. He chose to give this chance to Sarwan who grabbed it with both hands. The West-Indian took 22 balls to get to 20, failing to hit a single boundary in the process. And then, he promptly got out after getting his eye in.
Sarwan’s efforts ensured that Shaun Marsh’s blitz at the other end went completely wasted. Marsh scored 44 off 24 balls during this partnership. But Sarwan’s frugality ensured that the pressure built up considerably. So much so, that it consumed them all – Sarwan, Marsh, Yuvraj and Jayawardene. Yuvraj being forced to play the high-risk shot that led to his downfall was a result of his own doing.
Mohali has one of the most well balanced sides in the competition. Its Achilles heel is its captain. His leadership will be fatal for the side in crucial situations. Rajasthan, Chennai and Mumbai have benefitted from the wisdom of seasoned captains. And Mohali needs to do the same now. It has in its ranks both Mahela – a fine captain with Sri Lanka and Sangakkara – one of the shrewdest cricketing brains around. Make one of them the captain if you are serious about winning the IPL. And these guys happen to be far more articulate also. Mohali’s amateur captain could learn a thing or two from them.
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