New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) For the last six seasons, Punjab Kings (known as Kings XI Punjab till last year) have not made the play-offs even once, finishing eighth twice and seventh once. Last season, they had finished sixth. Although they were in contention for the play-offs, a couple of losses in the end, to Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, saw them crash out.
A change of name could, however, might bring them some luck!
Ahead of this season, the biggest challenge for the Punjab franchise was power-hitting in their batting line-up especially towards the end of an innings.
While both skipper KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal did well last season and Chris Gayle also performed well to make their top-order very strong, their middle-order struggled.
Glenn Maxwell, on whom they relied heavily disappointed and was therefore released ahead of this season. The Australian was picked by Royal Challengers Bangalore for a hefty sum.
However, Punjab Kings have made some expensive purchases to solidify not just their middle and late-order but also their pace bowling attack.
The Mohali franchise has bought England’s world No. 1 T20 batsman Dawid Malan and also included Tamil Nadu wunderkind Shahrukh Khan who impressed in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 with his power-hitting.
They also bought Australia pace bowlers Jhye Richardson for a whopping Rs 14 crore and Riley Meredith for Rs 8 crore.
Malan, Nicholas Pooran, Shahrukh Khan along with the top three, who were already there and mentioned above, make Punjab Kings’ batting line-up very formidable.
They have also bought all-rounder Moises Henriques, a white ball cricket specialist, who performed really well with the ball against India in the recent limited-overs series in Australia.
The only problem will be the combination since there are only four foreigners permitted for a franchise in an IPL game.
Punjab Kings will have to strike a balance.
Their bowling looks formidable even with Indian talent alone. Spinners Ravi Bishnoi and M Ashwin did a good job last season. The fact that they have Anil Kumble as director of cricket operations at the franchise shows the spinners have great guidance.
All eyes will be on pace bowler Mohammed Shami who was the franchise’s most successful bowler last season. The right-arm pace bowler is making a comeback after recovering from a fracture on his forearm that saw him miss the last three Tests in Australia as well as the entire series against England in India.
Shami exuded confidence in a recent interview with IANS.
Another aspect to watch out for would be KL Rahul’s leadership. The right-handed batsman struggled in recent limited-overs games against England before coming into form late.
Sunil Gavaskar praised his leadership a lot at the end of the last season.
Punjab Kings play their first match of the season on April 12 against Rajasthan Royals.
Punjab Kings squad:
KL Rahul (captain/wicketkeeper), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Mandeep Singh, Prabsimran Singh, Nicholas Pooran (wicketkeeper), Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, Murugan Ashwin, Ravi Bishnoi, Harpreet Brar, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh, Ishan Porel, Darshan Nalkande, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Jhye Richardson, Shahrukh Khan, Riley Meredith, Moises Henriques, Jalaj Saxena, Utkarsh Singh, Fabian Allen , Saurabh Kumar.
Punjab Kings support staff:
Anil Kumble (director of cricket operations), Andy Flower (assistant coach), Avinash Vaidya (general manager – cricket operations), Wasim Jaffer (batting coach), Jonty Rhodes (fielding coach), Damien Wright (bowling coach), Ashish Tuli (team analyst), Andrew Leipus (physio), Adrian Le Roux (strength and conditioning coach), Naresh Kumar (masseur).