Finishing on the seventh spot was definitely not the kind of the season that the Lions were looking for when IPL 10 started off, at least not from the team who topped the league table last year.
If 2017 is indeed the last time the orange shirts of the Lions make an appearance in the IPL, it will be a bitter legacy, as their squad selection at the auction and team selection at the start of the tournament have left them brutally exposed.
Looking down the list of players that were available to the Lions at the start of this season, you would have felt confident of them finishing in the top four. Yes, they were short of bowling and their bench strength wasn’t great either, but the batting was undoubtedly exciting.
What Went Wrong: A sharp look at the Statistics-
#Worst Bowling unit among all teams – Worst economy: 9.32 and average: 36.35 in the league
# Spinners failed – Worst Average in the league: 75.90
# Inadequate Backup for Injured Players: D.Bravo, Andrew Tye, Brendon McCullum
#Batsmen playing out of their usual positions: Smith and Finch batting in the middle order.
When Asked on the combination:
Ajit Agarkar said,
“To miss your key players like Jadeja ahead of the tournament is the biggest blow. They started with four overseas batsmen and when you know they all apply for the spot of opening it will be difficult to fit them in. For Pune, Stokes came off well but things worked not well with Faulkner of Lions. He was a complete disappointment.”
The issue with that batting was not that it wasn’t a powerhouse unit, it was that all the big name overseas batsmen that they selected were openers. With Aaron Finch, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Jason Roy they had four players that have plied their trade at the top of the order throughout their careers, so it meant that at least two of them would be out of position.
With Suresh Raina rightly keeping the number three spot, two of those openers would bat at number four and five. Smith struggled badly in the middle order and Finch had underperformed by his own high standards.
When asked about Raina’s Captaincy:
“Some of the decisions didn’t work well. He preferred Praveen Kumar but thankfully he gave Thampi a chance- He was the find of the season. Using Shivil Kaushik in the powerplays was a big mistake. He was excellent with the bat but his captaincy was not up to mark, but you can’t put a finger on it. The intent shown on the field for the top team last year was rather very disappointing.”
If the Lions are back in 2018, and as things stand that seems unlikely, then they need to rethink both about their batting and bowling lineups. They need to lose at least one of the overseas openers and get a batsman who can finish matches at the death.
Then they need to find an overseas player that either bowl with real pace or can turn the ball both ways so that it is not just all conventional spin and medium pace.
Sure, the Lions had the very unorthodox left-arm wrist spin Shivil Kaushik, but the young man is inexperienced and inconsistent. They need a top-class bowler who can be relied upon to perform more often than not.