New Personnel & Improved Death Overs Bowling Key for Punjab Kings
While there’s a lot of responsibility on Rahul, some of Punjab’s issues could be solved if the new recruits do well.
One of the most keenly observed franchises at the IPL 2021 Auction was Punjab Kings (erstwhile Kings XI Punjab), who like Royal Challengers Bangalore were looking for an overhaul in personnel.
Led by KL Rahul and head coach Anil Kumble, Punjab Kings had quite the task picking the correct replacements at the mini-auction, the most important being finding someone to fill for the misfiring Glenn Maxwell.
In changing the overseas core, they added Australians Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith and Moises Henriques to their side with an eye on the lower half of the line-up. They also signed on the highly rated Dawid Malan and Shahrukh Khan, who’s big hitting in the Syed Mushtaq Ali caught everyone’s eye.
While there will be plenty of responsibility on captain Rahul, a lot of Punjab’s problems could be solved if their big recruits perform well.
Punjab, who open their campaign against the Rajasthan Royals in Mumbai on 12 April, will depend heavily on the top order yet again. But for better fortunes, they’ll need improved performances in the death overs as well.
Dependence on Top Four
KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran and one of Chris Gayle or Dawid Malan are likely to make up the top 4 for Punjab. Herein lies Punjab’s strength and like last year they will look to tee off right from the get-go.
The problem last year was that Punjab were heavily dependent on Glenn Maxwell in the middle-order and that backfired spectacularly. His replacements, Henriques or Fabian Allen or Malan, however, might not find a spot immediately in the middle order.
One expects Punjab’s batting to depend heavily on the top half and the likes of Mandeep Singh and Shahrukh Khan to apply the finishing touches. A cause for concern however might be the lack of options to bowl a bit in the top half.
Death Overs Bowling
The death overs phase caused quite a bit concern for the Punjab thinktank and in Richardson and Meredith, they’ve added quite a bit of pace to round up the innings. Punjab were among the most expensive teams in the death overs, and the Australian duo represent a fair amount of intent to address that.
Mohammed Shami, who is returning from an injury lay-off, will lead the attack with the likes of Arshdeep Singh, M Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi backing him up.
There’s also Chris Jordan, who was expensive last year, and is likely to be battling for spot in the playing XI.
Good Indian Additions
While all-rounders and death bowlers were among the important issues to address for this season for Punjab, they made some good acquisitions from the Indian domestic circuit.
Shahrukh’s explosive batting promises more runs in place of Karun Nair while Jalaj Saxena and Saurabh Kumar provide good spinning options as well. Shahrukh, who scored at a strike rate of 220 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, has a good range of shots and ability to use the long handle well on a consistent basis, giving Punjab some much-needed fire-power in the lower middle-order.
Along with him Saurabh, a left arm spinner, has an economy of 7.04 in T20s and off-spinner Jalaj Saxena bowls with an economy of 6.84, provide able spinning options for Kumble and Rahul.
Punjab expect Rahul to be playing a more attacking game than last season and need their newly formed pace attack to walk the talk in the big overs.
The template isn’t likely to change much from last season however the personnel need to fire and share the responsibility evenly.
Probable playing XI: KL Rahul (Captain & WK), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle/Dawid Malan, Nicholas Pooran, Mandeep Singh, Shahrukh Khan, Fabian Allen, Jhye Richardson, R Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, M Ashwin.
KL Rahul (c&wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Mandeep Singh, Prabsimran Singh, Nicholas Pooran (wk), 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.
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