It’s the one word that no athlete, team or fan wants to associate with them or their favorite organization.
When the words choking and cricket are mentioned in the same sentence, rightly or wrongly, it is invariably the Proteas that will dominate this discussion.
While it will be difficult for a defeat to compete with the level of shock and disappointment that accompanied South Africa’s 1999 World Cup implosion, in terms of gripping the defeat from the jaws of the victory, the Punjab Kings could cover the Proteas.
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An opening stand worth 120 between captain KL Rahul (49 of 33) and Mayank Agrawal (67 of 43) allowed the Kings to continue the total of 186 points set by the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.
After the loss of the first players, the experienced duo Nicolas Pooran and Aiden Markram seemed to be a certainty to guide the Punjab to their fourth victory of the season.
With the Kings needing just 8 points on the final two overs – all with eight wickets in hand – Royals cricket manager Kumar Sangakkara watched sadly.
Perhaps the great Sri Lankan cricketer wished his team could have enlisted the services of Jofra Archer or even Ben Stokes, but with the two men out for the remainder of the tournament, he belonged to Mustafizur Rahman and Kartik. Tyagi to succeed. the impossible.
Despite going wicket-less and conceding 27 points in his previous three overs, Rahman did his job with Pooran and Markram only managing to steal four singles.
But with just four races out of six deliveries and with eight wickets still in hand, the odds were against the Royals to say the least.
Having already faced a Covid fight and indifferent form earlier in the IPL season, there was no suggestion that Tyagi’s final would be anything but a formality.
However, as Royals skipper Sanju Sampson would say later after the game, “cricket is a fun game”.
Despite a dot ball and a single to follow, the Punjab remained a virtual lock to claim victory.
A slight gash from Pooran, as he attempted to direct a full delivery to the third man, however quickly changed the equation.
Now with 3 races needed out of 3 deliveries and a new man at the fold, the whispers among the small crowd have started to grow.
“Certainly not, certainly not,” thought former England star Kevin Pietersen in the comment box.
A points ball followed by the wicket of Kings versatile Deepak Hooda saw the Punjab go from an impossible to lose position to now needing something special from the last ball.
Seeing his team’s odds crumble before his eyes, Fabian Allen failed to put a bat on Tyagi’s wide yorker, which capped one of the worst collapses in recent cricket history .
As Tyagi and the Royals celebrated as if they had won the competition, the usually stoic Punjab coach Anil Kumble could barely hide his fury as Rahul tried unsuccessfully to figure out how his team had bottled him.
“Hard to swallow,” he said discouragingly in a post-game interview, “we have to see how we can better handle the pressure.”
Kumble echoed a similar sentiment, saying: “It’s kind of become a role model for us, especially when we get to Dubai it seems.”
The Kings found themselves shaking their heads and asking similar questions during the 2020 season when they lost after demanding 22 races and 18 deliveries despite nine wickets in hand against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
One starter is enough, two and you might never shake the ‘chokers’ label again – just ask the Proteas.