Finally, it was the end of the road for Lucknow Super Giants in the Indian Premier League on Wednesday night after they lost to five-time champions Mumbai Indian, crashing to an-81 run defeat at Chepauk. This was the second consecutive time LSG were knocked out in the playoffs, having lost to Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL 2022 Eliminator.
For one of the most balanced teams in the fray, it was a roller coaster ride throughout while playing only their second season. Taking over the captaincy mid-season after KL Rahul was ruled out due to injury, Krunal Pandya did a fairly good job to take LSG to the last four but their luck rain out against a better team.
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Position: Third on the table (Knocked out in Eliminator) with 17 points. 8W, 5L
What went right?
Having started off with a fine 50-run win over Delhi Capitals on the home turf in Lucknow, KL Rahul-led side maintained good rhythm. Even after losing to MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings in their first away game, LSG went on winning the next two games, one each against Sunrisers Hyderabad by five wickets and a thrilling one-run win against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
They had their first loss on the home turf in the fifth game when even after posting a challenging total on board, they lost to Punjab Kings by two wickets, but in the next game, LSG came up with yet another fine performance, notching up an exciting 10-run win against Rajasthan Royals before losing to defending champions Gujarat Titans by seven runs on the home turf. Stand-in skipper Pandya led the side well, leading LSG to three wins, including a crucial and thrilling one-run victory over Kolkata Knight Riders, which helped them enter playoffs.
Marcus Stoinis (408 runs at a SR of 150), Nicholas Pooran (358 runs at a SR of 172.94) and Kyle Mayers (379 runs at a SR of 144.10) were in terrific form but LSG were just not assuring at the top, often leaving the job to the middle and lower order batters. Delhi’s Ayush Badoni, who scored 238 runs, including a half-century, remained the biggest find till date.
Among the bowlers, spinner Ravi Bishnoi (16 wickets at an economy of 7.74) and Afghan seamer Naveen-ul-Haq (11 wickets with 7.82 economy) stood out although it was Mark Wood (11 wickets with an economy of 8.12) who first stole the limelight, bowling quick and shattering wickets in four matches before he was taken ill. He later flew home to attend the birth of his child. Amit Mishra was another spinner who impressed but he could play only seven matches.
What went wrong?
Injury to KL Rahul, mid-season departure of Wood, a poor run with the bat by Deepak Hooda and the puzzling decision to bench de Kock remain some of the startling facts of LSG’s show this season. On the bowling front, only Pandya, Ravi Bishnoi and Naveen-ul-Haq were consistently applying pressure on batters. Stoinis was underutilised. Mohsin Khan joined late and was expensive. So were Avesh Khan and Yash Thakur.
As long as they were opening, Rahul almost acted as a foil to Mayers's aggression. But it was baffling to see how LSG consistently ignored de Kock's talent when some scenarios clearly asked for someone as experienced as the South African to not just open the innings but also give it some impetus. At Chennai too, de Kock could have been proved vital but LSG chose to go with Mayers. "It's always a tough decision. Quinton de Kock is a quality player, he is a world-class batter," said Pandya after the loss. “Kyle had a better record over here (in Chennai) and it was a tough decision but we felt we can go with Kyle at that time.”
Where could they improve?
There needs to be more clarity of thought over the main openers and the backup opener, because de Kock felt like a missed opportunity. And having realised his potential, LSG probably now may look at giving Badoni a regular slot instead of making him the impact sub. Besides this, they need to look for an alternative to the off-colour Hooda.