Punjab Kings, formerly known as the Kings XI Punjab, will hope that they have a change in fortune with a change in their name. The franchise is yet to lift their maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) title with their runner-up finish in the 2014 edition being their best performance till date. Although the team has seen plenty of ups and downs, they would be desperate to start afresh with a new brand identity and look to play a fearless brand of cricket.
While they have had players like Yuvraj Singh and Glenn Maxwell in the past, none of them have seemed to cracked the code of winning the title. Ahead of the 14th edition of the T20 tournament, the franchise needs to address how to win those key moments which cost them a few crucial matches in the initial half of IPL 2020. Had those moments gone their way, Punjab could have even gone on to play the finals.
Looking back at IPL 2020
In the two seasons prior to IPL 2020, Punjab had started off well before losing the momentum in the latter half of the competition. However, it was totally a different story in 2020. Under a new leader in KL Rahul, the team failed to win matches early on the in competition and although they made a pretty impressive comeback stitching a remarkable winning run, Chennai Super Kings ended their hopes of qualifying for the Playoffs by beating them in what was both the team’s last league game.
Glenn Maxwell was a big flop for the franchise and failed to smash even a single six throughout the tournament, managing just 108 runs in 13 matches. Sheldon Cottrell, too, did not look at his best form and with the overseas duo released ahead of the new season, the franchise has tried to stitch together a new team.
KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal and Nicholas Pooran make a formidable top order for the Punjab Kings. Rahul was in sublime form in IPL 2020, ending the tournament as the highest run-getter despite his team not being able to reach the playoffs. He would look to continue from there on. ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle, too, made an impact as soon as he got an opportunity in the Playing XI and still has it in him to help his team outscore the opposition. Add the world’s number 1 T20I batsman Dawid Malan and suddenly that batting order starts to look even more impressive.
Nicholas Pooran is widely touted as the next big thing especially in limited-over cricket and it remains to be seen how he delivers under pressure situation. While Mayank Agarwal will provide them a dependable domestic option at the top, Deepak Hooda and Shahrukh Khan could be their finishers and might even play as floaters. With inclusion of Mosies Henriques, who could also provide a bowling option to the captain, the batting looks more or less sorted for the Punjab Kings.
The addition of Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith could turn out to be potentially their fortune-changing buys. However, it would be interesting to see whether both of them get to bowl in tandem with the allowance of four overseas players. In addition, Mohammed Shami will lead their pace attack and could play a crucial role along with the likes of Ishan Porel, Chris Jordan, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh and Fabian Allen.
However, the balance of squad will be something Punjab would need to work on depending upon the combination they go ahead with. But one thing seems certain, the team does not have any dearth of talent, skill or experience at least on paper.
The franchise also needs to give some time to the new leadership group. While KL Rahul was made captain in IPL 2020, he did a decent job especially after he found the team struggling in the first half of the competition. The likes of Chris Gayle have also offered rich leadership insights to the Indian batsman. In Anil Kumble, the team also have a calm and composed head coach who is known for his tactical acumen and could make a positive impact on the team in tough situations. In addition, the likes of Andy Flower, Jonty Rhodes, Wasim Jaffer and Damien Wright are part of the coaching staff.
KL Rahul: Matches- 81 | Runs- 2647 | SR- 135.81 | Avg- 44.86
Chris Gayle: Matches- 132 | Runs- 4772 | SR- 150.11 | Avg- 41.13
Mohammed Shami: Matches- 65 | Wickets- 60 | ER- 8.89 | Best- 3/15
Players to watch out for:
Nicholas Pooran: Matches- 21 | Runs- 521 | SR- 165.39 | Avg- 32.56
Jhye Richardson (T20s): Matches- 67 | Wickets- 82 | ER- 7.92 | Best- 4/19
Full Punjab Kings squad for IPL 2021:
KL Rahul (c), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Mohammad Shami, Nicholas Pooran, Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith, Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, Ishan Porel, Ravi Bishnoi, Darshan Nalkande, Harpreet Brar, Mandeep Singh, Chris Jordan, Murugan Ashwin, Prabhsimran Singh, Shahrukh Khan, Moises Henriques, Dawid Malan, Fabian Allen, Arshdeep Singh, Jalaj Saxena, Saurabh Kumar and Utkarsh Singh.