The much awaited tournament Indian Premier League is finally knocking at the door and with IPL coming in just 5 days, it’s time we start making our playing 11s of every side. Not only as a fan of our respective sides but also as a cricket enthusiast, we love discussing what a playing 11 would be to begin with and that starts with making the strongest possible combination on paper. We are doing just the same thing in this series and we continue this series with looking at how the playing 11 of Kings XI Punjab would shape up.
KL Rahul (captain)
After the exit of Ravi Ashwin, KL Rahul has been assigned with the leadership responsibilities of the team. Rahul has couple of brilliant seasons for them after coming from his former team RCB. He was at his best in 2018 where his free flow game earned him 659 runs with the strike rate over 150. In the last season, the runs came consistently again but a relatively slower pace because he was assigned the role of playing through the inning without taking too many risks due to a fragile middle order. With the addition of Maxwell in the middle order his season, Rahul can go back to his destructive best in the upcoming season.
Much like his opening partner, Chris Gayle after leaving RCB did pretty well for KXIP in previous 2 seasons with his curve only going in the upward direction. Gayle scored 490 runs in the last season for Punjab in 2019 at a strike rate of 153. Gayle’s role at the top of the order will be absolutely clear and team wouldn’t like to complicate anything around him. What he can offer to his side needs no mentioning but his place is not guaranteed as KXIP have got Pooran as well and if they decide to play him at some stage, they may have to drop Gayle.
Indian test match opener Mayank Agarwal has enjoyed a prolific run at international level but for some reason he hasn’t been able to convert his international form in IPL. Even when he was piling huge runs in domestic cricket, he couldn’t do justice to his potential in this league. Mayank started the last season on a positive note but then faded away by wasting good starts. He has converted most of his starts into big ones in test cricket this year and would badly want to do the same either at number 3 or as the opener come the IPL.
Glenn Maxwell/ Nicholas Pooran
It was the heroics of Glenn Maxwell on which Punjab had ridden their way to glory last time back in 2014 when they ended the competition as runner up. He scored 300 runs in those 5 matches he played in UAE. They’ve not qualified for the playoffs since after and Maxwell’s story has remained the same as well. After a fabulous season with bat, Maxwell’s charm has faded away into deep obscurity and it will be a golden opportunity for him to revamp his lost mojo and justify the price tag which is associated with him. Maxwell’s form will shape Kings’ middle order which makes him a very crucial player for KXIP. Although ther eis no certainty over Maxwell’s presence in the first game due to quarantine protocols and if he is not available, Pooran would ideally play at his place.
Mandeep Singh was one of the weaknesses of KXIP last year producing only 14 boundaries out of the 120 balls he faced in the tournament. Considering his batting position, impact matters more than runs and consistency and Mandeep failed to make that impact. Despite that, he will hold on to his batting position in the beginning of the tournament. However, Kings do have Deepak Hooda as Indian replacement and James Neesham as overseas replacement if Mandeep fails to make his mark yet again.
Sarfaraz Khan at 6 would be their most sensible bet even if they play with Pooran at 5. Sarfaraz last year had scored at an average of 45 but couldn’t make too much impact with his strike rate of only 125. If he can get going along along with Maxwell and Mandeep, Punjab would have their moments with bat at least.
Karnataka All-rounder Krishnappa Gowtham is one of their most underrated yet valuable signings this year. Playing for Rajasthan Royals in the past season, Gowtham had a completely horrible season with very little numbers to show. KXIP bought Gowtham in the trade window prior to the auction. Gowtham, in a match in Karnataka Premier League had taken the country by storm when he scored a century and then picked 8-15 in the same match. Gowtham is a very utility player and despite his failure in the last season, the team would back him to come good in IPL 2020.
Mohammed Shami, being one of the finest bowlers going around in the world cricket will have the responsibility of leading Punjab’s pace attack. In the past IPL season, Shami ended the popular notion against him where people often didn’t rate him highly as a T20 bowler. Shami picked 19 wickets in IPL 2019 at a strike rate of 17 giving 8.68 runs per over which was a very fine performance considering the fact that he didn’t have much of support from the other end when it came to fast bowling. Shami’s weakness though, lies in death bowling where he can be vulnerable at times and can break off once the batsman starts putting pressure on him. He’d love to overcome this issue as well looking at his strong WT20 prospect next year.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Mujeeb ur Rehman would be one of their key players to success since the IPL is in UAE. He is coming off the back of a great CPL which shows he is in form. Although he played only 5 games last season, he’d have a much bigger role in the absence of Ashwin this time and hence he is expected to start in the playing 11. The fact that he can bowl in powerplay would come in handy for his selections. If he doesn’t get picked, KXIP would drop Mandeep Singh to play Nicholas Pooran and play either of Arshdeep Singh or Ishan Porel in the bowling.
Over the years, KXIP have often struggled for a quality overseas fast bowler leading to team’s downfall in crucial stages. In the auction gone by, they bought Cottrell and Chris Jordan to go with Hardus Viljoen whom they already had in their squad. However, these two people are easily the front runners for the remaining one overseas slot. Jordan, a better T20 bowler can be extremely valuable at death and with his extra batting & fielding abilities while Sheldon Cottrell brings left arm angle into play which is of huge significance considering the fact that KXIP don’t have any left arm bowler up their ranks. Cottrell’s cutters will aid his bowling at slow pitches in UAE.
With Murugan Ashwin not having a great outing in the previous season of IPL, Rajasthan leg spinner Ravi Bishnoi might start the tournament replacing him. Murugan could only manage to get 5 wickets from the 10 matches he played for Kings last season. Ravi Bishnoi is a like for like replacement providing leg spin bowling adding to the variety of attack. Punjab have bought him in 10 times his base price with a lots of expectations from the young 19 years old boy.