In the last couple of years Lendl Simmons has been a prominent batsman for West Indies in white ball cricket and so it has been a bit surprising that he has never really played in any of the T20 leagues around the world given the fact that Caribbeans are highly sought after in these. This year, however, he has been picked up by Mumbai Indians as a replacement for Jalaj Saxena and he has repaid their faith well with consistent starts up the order much like compatriot Dwayne Smith, who is turning out for the Chennai Super Kings. The first game of the all conquering Kings XI Punjab at their home turf of Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali in Chandigarh was no exception as well with the diminutive Trinidadian once again helping his beleaguered franchise win while chasing what could have been a tricky target.
Team composition: Mumbai made one change to its team for this game, bringing in Praveen Kumar for Harbhajan Singh and Punjab decided to drop David Miller and brought in Shaun Marsh for his first game in this year’s tournament.
Batting: Indians won the toss and decided to field first. Kings XI got to a decent total of 156 for 8. Manan Vohra was once again the top scorer with 39 from 30 balls. However, Virender Sehwag (36 from 34 balls) and Marsh (30 from 17 balls) made some crucial contributions to increase the team total.
Simmons’ dominance in the chase could be gauged from the fact that from a team total of 159 for 3 in 19 overs he scored an unbeaten 100 himself and only used 61 balls for that. Rohit Sharma was the next highest scorer with 18 from 20 balls. To score a century in a 120 ball-game is an absolutely stupendous feat and the way Simmons guided the team while achieving the important landmark speaks volumes about his tenacity and capability to adapt to a tournament of IPL’s stature. The fact that he is playing for the first time only makes it more special.
Bowling: Yet another season debutant, Shreyas Gopal performed really well with the ball for MI, claiming 2 for 32 in his 4 overs but it was Jasprit Bumrah who was the best bowler on show with 2 for 31 in his spell. Praveen Kumar bowled well for his 1 for 20 as did Pragyan Ojha who conceded only 28 runs in his 4 overs. The only sore spot was Krishmar Santokie who picked a wicket but was carted around for 40 runs.
For KXIP, Akshar Patel once again stood out with 1 for 27 as did Rishi Dhawan (1 for 30) and Beuran Hendricks (1 for 33). One feels that with more runs on the board they may have been more effective. Sandeep Sharma (none for 37 in 3 overs) and Shivam Sharma (none for 32 in 4 overs) were very expensive though and this really hurt KXIP’s chances.
Where do the teams go from here?
Mumbai Indians would be really pleased with how they upset one of the better teams of the present edition of the IPL. The fact that this was achieved without Harbhajan only makes it even more fulfilling. However, it remains to be seen who is dropped when he comes back. Perhaps, the way Santokie is bowling it would not be such a bad idea to bench him and get Corey Anderson back in the team. That would give the Mumbai Indians attack a more balanced look – with 2 spinners in Ojha and Harbhajan and 4 seamers in Praveen, Bumrah, Kieron Pollard and Anderson.
Kings XI Punjab, on the other hand, need to look at some other bowling options such as Anureet Singh and Shardul Thakur, both of whom have performed well in domestic cricket this season. It would also please them that Marsh struck some form. Maybe, they can rest Glenn Maxwell and bring back Miller so that Marsh, who till 2013 was one of the leading run-scorers for the franchise, gets a decent run to get ready to play in the semis if needed. This game also proved that they are a field first side that depends heavily on a couple of batsmen to come good and crumbles when they fail. If they are serious about winning the trophy for the first time they should address this area immediately and make sure that they are prepared to deal with all exigencies.