The days of Kings XI Punjab are over, in name. The Punjab Kings begin their journey starting from Indian Premier League 2021. There might be many reasons for this makeover, but there was an interesting line from captain KL Rahul when this was made official: a franchise team is about more than just “XI” on the field.
That should not just be a marketing gimmick, it is a sentiment that Punjab Kings must tap into for the 2021 season. The team has competed in all 13 previous 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. They have had star players over the years, but they have had constant coaching staff changes, personnel changes, captaincy changes. Now, for the 14th season, there is a hint of stability around the team despite the number of players they released and the new signings that have come in. Largely, a significant core from 2020 will continue in 2021.
The rebranding aside, the franchise have a squad that – on paper – should be a top-four team. In 2020, they paid the price for a poor start, despite rallying superbly in the second half. The habit of not crossing the line in matches where they should win easily has plagued the franchise for a few seasons now.
Players bought by PBKS at auction
|Jhye Richardson||Bowler||Rs 140000000|
|Riley Meredith||Bowler||Rs 80000000|
|Shahrukh Khan||All-Rounder||Rs 52500000|
|Moises Henriques||All-Rounder||Rs 42000000|
|Dawid Malan||All-Rounder||Rs 15000000|
|Fabian Allen||All-Rounder||Rs 7500000|
|Jalaj Saxena||All-Rounder||Rs 3000000|
|Saurabh Kumar||All-Rounder||Rs 2000000|
|Utkarsh Singh||All-Rounder||Rs 2000000|
The batting once again is the strong suit for Punjab. They boast of some hard-hitters like Rahul (670 runs in 2020 season), Mayank Agarwal (424 runs) and Chris Gayle. Rahul and Agarwal formed a lethal opening combination in 2020 and are likely to continue opening despite the inclusion of Dawid Malan and the presence of Gayle. In Nicholas Pooran, they have arguably the most exciting West Indies T20 cricketer in the world at the moment.
Their auction was an interesting one, because they were busy as was expected to be, but made some strange decisions. They let Royals have Chris Morris for a record fee when perhaps a crore or two more (they had plenty remaining in the purse) would have gotten them their primary target. They stopped short for Moeen Ali, too. The management set out with a clear mandate to bring in pace and middle order stability, finishing skills to the XI. The former was accomplished, perhaps, even if it is through untested talent but the batting weakness could yet come back to haunt them.
PBKS squad for IPL 2021
|Mayank Agarwal||Mohammed Shami||KL Rahul||Deepak Hooda|
|Chris Gayle||Arshdeep Singh||Nicholas Pooran||Sharukh Khan|
|Mandeep Singh||Darshan Nalkande||Prabhsimran Singh||Moises Henriques|
|Sarfaraz Khan||Hardeep Brar||Fabian Allen|
|Dawid Malan||M Ashwin||Jalaj Saxena|
|Ishan Porel||Saurabh Kumar|
|Ravi Bishnoi||Utkarsh Singh|
As for other teams, the challenge for Punjab is to get their overseas combination right and fix some glaring holes in their team which is still top heavy. Shahrukh, a shrewd signing, should get the nod ahead of others like Deepak Hooda and Sarfaraz Khan, and could play the role of a finisher.
The bowling attack will be led by Mohammed Shami, who was superb in the last edition. Their pacer line-up has been bolstered by the signing of Australian speedsters Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith, who had a sensational Big Bash campaign, and also includes Chris Jordan.
Given their obvious issues in the batting order beyond the top, West Indies’ Fabian Allen could yet prove to be a bargain buy. He comes with a reputation as a finisher, a role Rahul said his side lacked, but his potential is yet to be tapped in the IPL. Could this be the season?
In M Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi, they have two solid spin options (more on that later), if not spectacular, and Jalaj Saxena could prove to be a smart acquisition too.
The star-studded coaching staff gets another season to put their plans right. To go with their personnel from 2020, Damien Wright was recently appointed as the bowling coach to evidently look after the pace attack including the newly-acquired quicker bowlers.
- Director of cricket: Anil Kumble
- Assistant coach: Andy Flower
- Batting coach: Wasim Jaffer
- Bowling coach: Damien Wright
- Fielding coach: Jonty Rhodes
- Physio: Andrew Leipus
- Strength and conditioning: Adrian Le Roux
India’s T20 World Cup plans
A sidetrack during IPL 2021 is going to be seeing how India’s T20 World Cup squad probables / hopefuls / outsiders perform.
- Right before the IPL, the team captain lost his place in the India T20I XI. Rahul returned to the ODI lineup and found his scoring touch back but it should help Punjab that their main man has to win his place back in the national side for a World Cup. If Virat Kohli is planning on opening with Rohit Sharma, it is up to Rahul now to show he is the best opener T20 opener India could hope for.
- It is tough to fathom at the moment where Shami is in terms of India’s white-ball plans. He has been missing in action since the Australia tour, but in the seasons before that, he certainly showed he is a much improved bowler in limited overs. He had a solid IPL season last year too. But with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah likely to take up two spots in the XI, Shami too has his task cut out to force his name into the first-choice.
- Make no mistake, India have a spin bowling crisis brewing ahead of a World Cup at home. Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav do not have form on their side, Ravindra Jadeja (as a bowler) is still hit and miss, Washington Sundar is raw, Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya do not scream match-winners. If the selectors are not worried about, then there is a crisis waiting to happen there. This is where Ravi Bishnoi (as a wrist-spinner who can thrive on most pitches) and M Ashwin have a massive opportunity to make their names feature in the discussion.
The Big Question
- Whisper it so that Rahul doesn’t hear but there is more than a fair share of the cricket community looking at his strike rate. He might not want you to, he might not think it is an important metric, but what his approach is going to be is something that is definitely the most intriguing aspect of Punjab’s plans for the season. Even Wasim Jaffer, Punjab’s batting coach, has gone on the record saying he expects the Punjab captain to play more freely this season. Rahul’s quotes about strike rate being over-rated needs to be seen in the context of what he was trying to say: that winning matches is more important and not how quickly, is a fair argument. But in an ideal world, Punjab can win more matches when Rahul fulfills the devastating potential he has at the top of the order.
Most Valuable Player
- In that batting line-up filled with match-winners, there are a few that fit the bill, but it is hard to look past Pooran for this.
Uncapped player to look out for
- For reasons mentioned above, it has to be Bishnoi. Not only is the young spinner one of the franchise’s finds of the last season, he has the incentive to at least make the selectors sit up and take notice. From the U-19 World Cup to his debut IPL campaign, Bishnoi has made the right first impressions, it is now a question of following it up and showing improvements. A bit to dependent on his googlies, it will be interesting to see if Bishnoi has added to his arsenal for the 2021 season.
The venues might be neutral for IPL 2021, but PBKS could not have possibly hoped for a better set. The will play their first three matches of IPL 2021 in Mumbai and then shift base to Chennai for their next two matches, before moving to the new stadium in Ahmedabad for their next four. The Rahul-Kumble combo will be all but at home for their last five league matches which will be played in Bengaluru. Even in a normal season, Punjab never really boasted of a home advantage but in 2021, they have a few things going in their favour.
IPL 2021 PBKS schedule
Ideal playing XI
KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Sarfaraz Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Fabian Allen, Riley Meredith / Jhye Richardson, Ravi Bishnoi, M Ashwin, Mohammed Shami
Punjab over the years in IPL
|Season||League stage finish||Playoff result|
|IPL 2008||2nd||Lost in semi-final|
|IPL 2011||5th out of 10||––|
|IPL 2012||6th out of 9||––|
|IPL 2013||6th out of 9||––|
|IPL 2014||1st||Lost in final|
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