Playoffs without the Kings!
Kings XI became the second team to be officially knocked out of this year IPL. Having required to win their last match against CSK to keep their qualifying hopes alive, the famed top 3 of the KXIP batting line up failed to deliver for the first time, ending up with a below-par score, and another brilliant inning from young sensation Rituraj Gayakwad, ensured that Punjab was knocked out of the tournament. 1. The tale of two half's KXIP were languishing at the bottom of the table after the first half of the season was done, having won only one out their first seven matches, KXIP were almost looked set to be one of the first teams to be knocked out. But these matches were not a true reflection of their performance, most of the matches where they should have won, but failed to finish the match in the end and ending up on the wrong side, and even at times the rub of the green not going for them, as in the case of wrong short-run call by the umpire. But their second half of the season was a stark contrast to the first, they looked a revamped squad, and along with the entry of Universal Boss, there was calm air to the team and they started winning the close matches that they were loosing before. Winning 5 matches straight, KXIP set to make it to the playoffs, but in the end couldn't win that one match of the last two, that was required to seal that top 4 berths. Nonetheless, they gave us great entertainment and kept the tournament alive to make it more interesting. 2. “Definitely not the last one” Those words that all the fans of Chennai Super Kings and probably the rest of cricketing fraternity were longing to hear. When asked at the toss whether this might be the last match that MSD was going to play in Yellow, Mahi replied with a resounding No, meaning we can expect at least another year of Mahi magic in IPL. After all, MS is one of the most successful and consistent captains in IPL and franchise cricket and national cricket history, and even the CSK management feels that there is more than Mahi can offer to the team and mould it into a force to reckon with for the future, and perhaps take them to one more title. Nonetheless, expect a swansong send-off to Mahi from CSK, the one he never got to enjoy as an Indian player. 3. The final pieces begin to fall into place. The playoffs race had reached a climactic stage for the last weekend of the league stages, with each match deciding whether a team is moving into playoffs or getting knocked out. In the first of such matches, KXIP needed a strong victory against CSK, who were the only team to be knocked out yet. Unfortunately for the Kings, this was the first time that at least one of their top 3 failed to score a big one take the team to a respectable score. Although a brilliant late 50+ plus Hooda did help, the final score was below par. The bowling of KXIP lacked penetration, and CSK chased down the score with relative ease, to make sure that one KINGS put another out of the tournament, much to the delight of other teams in the qualifying race. 4. A campaign that could have been By far this has been the worst IPL season for CSK ever, being the first team to be knocked out off this season’s IPL, and their first time not making it to the last 4 of the competition in the 13 editions thus far. Much of that success can be attributed to a stable CSK team keeping that core group of players and building around them. But that phase had to come to end, as that core group was ageing and was going retire in a season or two, and the change in venue to Dubai has exposed that fact even more. But Chennai did bounce back very strongly in the latter half of their season, especially in their last 4 matches, where youngsters like Gayakwad has performed extremely well and has taken the team home. Also with Jadeja hitting form with the bat, Sam Curran and Ngidi showing signs of brilliance, and Faf’s consistency. If those people had been given an earlier and longer opportunity, the story could well have been different for CSK, after all, it was just by 2 points that they missed out on a chance to qualify.
Nonetheless, CSK look set to be back with a bang for the next season, and this could be further reinforced if they could make some inspired buys in the auction for next season and beyond.