Of all the trends in the IPL that have gotten fortified as constants over the past few years, the perpetual inconsistency of the Punjab Kings is likely on top of the list. With 1 game to go and their chances of making it through to the playoffs looking slim in spite of a promising start, this season has been no different for them.

On Monday evening, when the Punjab Kings met with the Delhi Capitals in a game where victory could have helped them take a confident stride towards a top 4 finish, they failed to chase down a score of 160. After an early flourish from Jonny Bairstow, the Kings lost more than half their wickets inside the first 10 overs. 

As they were stranded at 67-6, with around 90 runs to get off the last 60 balls, a run chase that should have otherwise been a mere formality turned into a near impossibility. Jitesh Sharma was the only batter to put his hand up and lead his team as close to a win as possible, and he was fairly successful in his attempt. Despite his counterattacking 44 off 34 balls, PBKS fell 17 runs short of their target.

Disappointed in their loss, Sharma, in the post-match press conference, highlighted that a target of 160, given the pitch conditions and efforts of their bowlers in the 1st innings, should have been chased “comfortably.”

Pondering what went wrong, the 28-year-old wicket-keeper said–

“We lacked responsibility today. If 1 or 2 of the players at the top of the order would have stayed on, we could have won the game. Of course, no batter comes out wanting to get dismissed; the goal is always to win the game for the team. It was a bad day.”

Speaking of how they could have tackled the DC spinners, Kuldeep Yadav in particular, he reflected that the shot selection and planning against them could have been better. “One of his wickets, the batter gave to him. The other, he got off a good ball. Yet, we could have tried to see his 24 balls off for 24 runs and attacked the other bowlers.”

Boiling their loss down to a lack of responsibility and possible inadequate planning, Sharma’s words characterize PBKS’ fate this season. Despite a few convincing victories, marked by terrific performances from some of their batters, their plans have failed to materialize. While they started the season with a positive approach, with each batter swinging from the get go, a few losses with that formula led to them changing their formula. Then, middling returns with the more conventional template sparked a reintroduction of their eye for aggression. And amidst their alarming hesitancy and lack of faith in their approach, 13 games have passed by, and they have only managed to win 6.

Jitesh’s performances, however, have been a silver lining. With 215 runs from 9 innings at an average of 30.7 and strike rate of 158.1, he has certainly made his mark for PBKS in his debut IPL season. Among the 62 players to have faced at least 100 balls this IPL, Sharma has the 9th best strike rate.

As things stand, the Punjab Kings’ fate in the tournament is no longer entirely in their control. Since their last match, against Sunrisers Hyderabad, is also the last match of the league stage, they will have to depend on earlier results to go their way, and register a thumping victory against the Orange Army to vye for a playoff spot. And in order to win big, they will need Jitesh and PBKS’ reflection of the unfortunate loss against DC to be put to action.

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