Following the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 auction, the Punjab Kings (PBKS) were seen as one of the strongest contenders to make the playoffs on the basis of the impressive squad they had assembled.
They began the tournament in confident fashion, chasing down a target of 206 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
The franchise, however, failed to build on a good start and lost two of their next three matches. It set a trend for them in the tournament as they could never achieve any level of consistency.
They won enough matches to stay in the hunt until the latter phase of the league stage.
In the end, their unpredictability cost them as they failed to make the playoffs. Despite defeating the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in their last league match, they ended up in sixth position with seven wins and as many losses.
PBKS: The good, the bad and the future
In the wake of PBKS’ disappointing IPL 2022 campaign, we look back at what they did well during the season and what they did not.
What was good
This year, we finally saw why he is rated so highly on the T20 circuit. Livingstone was easily PBKS’ most impactful batter. He struck the ball with authority and ended the season with 437 runs in 14 games at a brilliant strike rate of 182.08.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan also did reasonably well, although his numbers paled in comparison to the previous two seasons. Still, the PBKS southpaw was among the top ten run-getters in IPL 2022.
He scored 460 runs in 14 matches at an average of 38.33 and a strike rate of 122.66.
Among the bowlers, pacer Kagiso Rabada was the standout performer. He kept the fight alive for PBKS even in games where the batting faltered.
Having been released by the Delhi Capitals (DC), he had a point to prove. He made an emphatic statement by claiming 23 wickets in 13 matches and was the third-highest wicket-taker in IPL 2022.
He was at his very best, constantly troubling batters with his pace and bounce.
What was not
Skipper Mayank Agarwal’s wretched batting form was the biggest disappointment for PBKS during the IPL 2022 campaign.
In their previous two seasons, Agarwal and KL Rahul were the team’s best batters and their cornerstones. The former had scored over 400 runs in both the IPL 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Following Rahul’s exit from the franchise, Agarwal was elevated to leadership. There were high hopes from him, but he succumbed under pressure.
Agarwal ended the season with 196 runs in 13 matches at an average of under 17. Even a shift from the top to the middle-order did not change his fortunes.
Punjab also erred in their utilization of Jonny Bairstow. After he was available for selection, he was drafted into the middle-order for the first few matches.
Having tasted most of his success in the IPL at the top of the order, the England stroke-maker looked uncomfortable in the middle-order role. He demonstrated his talent once he was moved up by the order with some blazing knocks.
By that time, though, the ship had sailed.
The failure of Shahrukh Khan was another massive setback to PBKS’ hopes of having a memorable IPL 2022 campaign. Khan was purchased at the auction with high expectations, following some stellar domestic performances for Tamil Nadu.
Barring a few well-struck big hits, though, he was a big letdown. Khan ended the season with 117 runs in eight matches at a below par strike rate of 108.33.
Despite Agarwal’s poor season, PBKS are likely to retain him, for he is a proven performer with a willow. However, it won’t be surprising if he returns as a batter, minus the responsibility of the captaincy, next season.
Agarwal looked like an earnest trier as a leader. He even won a lot of praise for sacrificing his opening position for the team’s sake. But captaincy goes much beyond that.
One season might not be fair to pass a judgment on his leadership skills. What cannot be denied, though, is that Punjab need Agarwal the batter more than Agarwal the captain.
PBKS will also need to reflect on their “go all out” batting approach in IPL 2022. It worked in a few games and backfired in a few. At the end of the day, they did not progress to the next round, which translates to the fact that the theory failed.
Per se, their aggressive approach wasn’t a bad one but where Punjab erred was in failing to put together a team for the same. When you want to attack from start to finish, you need batters who can come in and deliver the goods at No. 8 and No. 9 as well.
With all due credit, the likes of Harpreet Brar, Kagiso Rabada, Rahul Chahar and Rishi Dhawan in the lower-order did not inspire a lot of confidence.