Note: This article was originally published when the player retention list was announced.
You have to hand it to the Kings XI Punjab. Their commitment to entertain the fans is nearing legendary status now. And not just on the cricket field, mind you. They are arguably the most interesting team to follow in the auction halls as well. The 2018 auction witnessed owner Preity Zinta and now former coach Virender Sehwag share many a smile between them as they went for players left right and centre.
And it would be a safe bet that is set to continue once again — *minus Sehwag, of course, who has been let go.
The only player who the team retained before the 2018 auction was Axar Patel and he has been let go ahead of the auctions for the 12th edition. So that’s a complete churn in the team roster in under two seasons (not *technically* of course, with players returning etc).
Let’s a take a closer look.
Player retentions / purse remaining
Retained: KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Andrew Tye, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Karun Nair, David Miller and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Released: Aaron Finch, Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Barinder Sran, Ben Dwarshuis, Manoj Tiwary, Akshdeep Nath, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar and Manzoor Dar.
Traded in: Mandeep Singh (from RCB).
Traded out: Marcus Stoinis (to RCB).
Salary cap available: Rs 36.20 crore.
Available slots: Overall – 15, Overseas – 4
A clean slate, perhaps?
Well, on a serious note, the franchise does have a good core to work with. In KL Rahul, R Ashwin, and Karun Nair, they have three guaranteed Indian starters. In Mujeeb and Tye, they have two guaranteed overseas slots taken care of. In Gayle, they have a match-winner (should he still feel up to it).
The other good recruitment for Punjab is Mike Hesson. The former New Zealand head coach is a shrewd tactician and should help Ashwin hone his captaincy skills – the Tamil Nadu spinner showed he has what it takes to be an innovative captain – without getting carried away with experimentation.
Will Gayle still be a force to reckon with?
Well, we are really running out of things to say about a “squad” that has just nine players now.
Players to look out for / areas to improve
Where do we start?
Punjab will hands down be the most busy team in the auction with Rs 36.2 crore available to fill up 15 slots, four of them overseas. But the problem here is the fact that in a season where many squads have opted for stability, the players who have been released back into the auction pool are basically the ones deemed not good enough by their previous franchises. (In rare cases, a case of too many options perhaps). Honestly, how many genuinely can’t-miss names are going to be in the auction? There could be a few new names thrown into the mix, of course. Sam Curran, for instance.
As far as areas to improve, Punjab need serious quality in all departments to go with quantity. But, going by last season’s performances, the one area that needs more attention than most is the middle order. There was no team dependent on the contribution of openers more than Punjab in 2018. Again though, where is the quality? Especially among Indian batsman, some of the options are: Sarfraz Khan, Saurabh Tiwary, Tanmay Agarwal.
A wicket-keeper is a must, given they managed to get lucky with Rahul last season. The man could do no wrong with the bat and with the gloves behind the stumps for the most part and the franchise got away with what could have only been an oversight with having Rahul as the only “recognised” wicket-keeper. Wriddhiman Saha could well be set for a return while Naman Ojha is the other option.
One exciting prospect from KXIP standpoint is the lack of competition for overseas names in the auction. They could snap up some big second tier players on the cheap, potentially.
All in all, a long December day awaits Zinta and Co.