While the original expectation was that the Indian Premier League’s 14th edition would be preceded by a mega auction, franchises are set for another short-term recruitment drive. With no new teams added to the league, the eight existing franchises were given the chance to retain the bulk of their squad. And so, a maximum of 61 slots spread across teams are to be filled up during the IPL 2021 auction, to be held in Chennai. The tournament is expected to be played in India, starting from April. You can read about rest of the teams here.
So, after the rebranding exercise in the IPL. Kings XI Punjab will now be Punjab Kings. The last time a team renaming happened, Delhi Capitals made sure they reached the playoffs in subsequent seasons, even playing the final in 2020. The minds of sports fans (and presumably team owners) work in mysterious ways and make you believe in the power of these little things that could seemingly impact the events on the sporting field.
The reality, however, is that it is a squad of players that determines the fortunes of a side and that is where Punjab will hope to improve at the auction ahead of IPL 2021.
They had built a promising squad in the auction for IPL 2020 and were looked at as strong contenders for a spot in the playoffs. However, the one word that summed up Kings XI Punjab’s IPL 2020 campaign was: rollercoaster. Punjab have competed in all 13 editions of the T20 tournament but have reached the playoffs just twice, the last of which was way back in 2014 when they topped the league stage but lost in the final. And in 2020, their rollercoaster season ended in heartbreak as they finished in the sixth position.
The problem that plagued them once again was consistency. The team in recent seasons has shown a tendency to deal in extremes and struggled to close out matches from winning positions. But, continuing with the Anil Kumble-KL Rahul combination for another year, the team is in a good place off-season.
Results in last three seasons
|Season||League stage finish||Playoff result|
At first glance, it might look like Punjab have gone for a ruthless overhaul and started another rebuilding process but a closer look at the released players list will tell you that just one of the names (Glenn Maxwell) was a regular in the XI, the rest of them mostly squad players. And by clearing out the squad in the manner they have, the team has opened up more than enough funds to add value to the contingent and significantly strengthen their first team.
Players released after IPL 2020: Glenn Maxwell, Sheldon Cottrell, Mujeeb Zadran, Hardus Viljoen, James Neesham, Krishnappa Gowtham, Karun Nair, Jagadeesha Suchith, Tejinder Singh Dhillon
Player traded in/out: None
Unlike previous auctions, Punjab enter the auction with a squad short on numbers but not quality. They have been one of the busiest teams at the table in both the mini-auctions before this one, and there were clear overhauls needed in multiple areas of the squad. That is not a good position to be in before a process as cut-throat as this.
Punjab squad for IPL 2021 ahead of auction
|Mayank Agarwal||Mohammed Shami||KL Rahul||Deepak Hooda|
|Chris Gayle||Arshdeep Singh||Nicholas Pooran|
|Mandeep Singh||Darshan Nalkande||Prabhsimran Singh|
|Sarfaraz Khan||Hardeep Brar|
But this time around, there is a clear pathway in front of the management. Gayle, Rahul, Mayank, Pooran, Shami, Bishnoi, M Ashwin: that’s a core that is brimming with match-winners and there are plenty of funds left to improve decisively.
With great power, comes great responsibility though. Punjab’s spending power can disrupt other team’s plans but if the team is shrewd enough in their planning, they can emerge as clear winners at the end of auction day.
Salary cap remaining: Rs 53.20 crores
Overall slots remaining: 9
Overseas slots remaining: 5
Areas to target
- Fast bowler (Indian and overseas)
- Middle-order finisher
- Allrounder (spin or pace)
- Backup top order batsmen
It is perhaps the confidence of having the largest purse for the auction, but KL Rahul was frank in assessing where his squad stood.
“It’s been quite obvious in the last three seasons that we have missed somebody in the middle order who can close out games, win games for us in the middle [order]. Someone who bowls fast is always exciting and quite a weapon to have in the team, so these are the two things we really missed (or had them in the team who couldn’t quite come good),” captain Rahul said, offering insights into the team’s strategy while announcing the rebranding.
So that is where the team’s focus will be. The Maxwell experiment has clearly not worked out for them, so they would do well to let the other teams fight for services this time. Moeen Ali, instead, could be the more solid allrounder option in the middle order that they crave. While Neesham came in and out of the XI last season, an Indian allrounder who can be useful with the bat in the death overs (say, Shivam Dube) would be able to hold that position without compromising an overseas slot.
The team can really afford to be overpay for someone too, purely because it’s a short-term investment and there is no one even close to competing with their purse depth. Ahead of IPL 2020, they went up to Rs 7.75 crore for Chris Morris before letting RCB have him for Rs 10 crore (with MI joining the bidding late). He is once again available, and this time Punjab can afford to go full tilt to bring in a player that will walk into their XI.
The team is also missing a first-choice off-spinner rather a part-time option and given Mujeeb hardly featured last season, an Indian finger-spinner will be a crucial addition to keep the balance. Maybe Harbhajan Singh — Punjab connection and all — will be a good investment.
“They have to strengthen their Indian bowling, there is no one could actually compliment Mohammed Shami,” two-time IPL title-winning captain Gautam Gambhir told Star Sports.
“Umesh Yadav would be a very good pick, and they can rotate their fast bowlers with Shami and Umesh bowling with the new ball. It can open up a gap for a overseas player, someone like Chris Morris who can bowl well at the death and they could pick Kyle Jamieson as well. These are the three players they should look to target and look to get them, which they will because they have so much money. IT will make their entire side look completely different,” Gambhir added.
IPL 2021: Purse & squad details before auction
|Franchise||Purse remaining (Rs crores)||Available Slots||Overseas Slots|
The auction will be telecast on Star Sports Network on 18 February from 3 pm IST.