New Delhi: Before Kings XI Punjab's match against Delhi Daredevils, newspaper headlines flashed: 'Buoyant Punjab face listless Delhi'. Going by their IPL performance, till then, the headline looked aptly written even smartly phrased.
Kings XI Punjab has started their campaign with a loss but picked up thenceforth with renewed vigour. After three consecutive wins against fairly good oppositions they looked almost invincible. But things soon started to fall apart. After their loss against the supposedly listless Delhi, they were forced to surrender against Kolkata Knight Riders, who clearly looked a class apart.
Now after six games, Punjab have three wins and as many losses. Cricket being a game of ruthless aggressors sadly doesn't take pride from balancing acts. The Kings now lie third from the bottom and almost face elimination if things continue in the same vein.
However, they have a promising line-up which doesn't look like a bunch who would surrender to pressure. Here's a look at their strengths and weaknesses.
Paul Valthaty: Valthaty has been a revelation. Clearly, the find of the tournament, he has 268 runs from six games at an average of 53.60. His unbeaten 120 off 63 balls against CSK remains the best innings of this season and snatching the orange cap away from Sachin Tendulkar was no lesser achievement. Not only with the bat, his 4/29 against the Deccan Chargers showed he is unputdownable on field. It is ironical but true that Punjab depends on this lad, who days ago was living in total anonymity, to keep their semifinal hopes alive.
Shaun Marsh: Marsh was undoubtedly IPL's biggest gift to cricket. This consistent batsman with a steady head on his shoulders continues to grace the stage which made him famous. Marsh has, so far, collected 184 runs with two fifties under his belt. Having been made to sacrifice his opening slot to the new star Valthaty, he has settled into his new role almost seamlessly.
Adam Gilchrist: The fiery Australian has led admirably throughout the tournament but his batting has been a cause of concern. His 177 runs from six matches doesn't justify the player he is and though fingers have not been pointed at him hitherto, if his team continues to lose, things soon would change for legendary Gilly.
Spinners: The spinners have not clicked yet. In sub-continental pitches where turn can turn fortunes, the Piyush Chawlas have lacked shine. They discovered it the hard way on a turning track against KKR and will continue to suffer if their tweakers don't start to tweak.