The Kings XI Punjab have an exciting blend of youth and experience that is ready to take the Indian Premier League (IPL), 2013 by storm. Led by experienced Adam Gilchrist and rubbing shoulders with David Hussey, the highest run scorer in Twenty20 format, the side boasts of a host of promising Indian youngsters who present exciting possibilities for the future. As WV Raman, the Assistant coach of Punjab told this writer in a recent interview, “They (youngsters) have been watched very closely during the last two editions. This would be a good platform for them to garner immediate attention.”
During the Indian Premier League (IPL), 2012, Mandeep Singh caught the eye with some sterling match-winning performances at the top of the order. His 75 against Chennai Super Kings exemplified his courage and class. Having played for the India Under-19s, he was earmarked for bigger things at an early age and the IPL gave him the limelight. That he won the Rising Star of the Tournament award is testimony of the promise he has. The Punjab management backed him to perform and he delivered opening the batting.
Mandeep has shown great application against the fast-bowlers and does not shy away from playing the horizontal bat strokes if they pitched it short. His knock against the Deccan Chargers last season highlighted his potential as he courageously pulled and ferociously cut against an attack featuring Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma. His consistent performances at the domestic level were instrumental in Mandeep earning a berth in the India A team for the New Zealand tour last year where he performed commendably. His 180-ball 105 in the first unofficial Test and 281-ball 193 at Bert Sutcliffe Oval in the second Test showed his immense run hunger.
Mandeep would be on the selector’s minds this season. And if he scores big runs, an India call might be around the corner for Mandeep. There are two other young batsmen in the Punjab side who have shown a lot of promise.
Manan Vohra’s introduction into the IPL was grand as he showed no nerves against the Pune Warriors India. In the first eight balls he faced, he smashed five fours — each better than the previous boundary. His backfoot punch, with exquisite timing was eye-catching.
Vohra was part of the Unmukt Chand’s India Under-19 setup, but did not feature in the World Cup due to an untimely finger injury. He shares a record with Chand, that of the fastest chase of a target over 100 at the Under-19 level. Chand and Vohra opened the batting against Australia U-19 in an encounter on September 27, 2011 and chased a small total of 164 in 12 overs. Vohra contributed with a breezy 79 off 35 balls. He has played only two First-Class games so far. Vohra would be eager to carry his rich vein of form even in the domestic season.
The third exciting batsman in the Punjab side is Gurkeerat Singh Mann. In the last season, he showed great temperament in situations where he had to attack from the very start of his ininngs. His most memorable moment came against the Deccan Chargers, where he contributed with a decisive 29 off 12 balls to see Punjab home. While the world expected a Hussey to take control and attack the bowlers, this youngster decided to take matters into his own hands and made a difference.
Gurkeerat did not get a bat in the first game of this season, but his fielding skills won laurels. His catch of Ross Taylor on the fine leg boundary is one of most astounding efforts seen on a cricket field. It is always great to see Indian youngsters taking fielding seriously and pulling off stunners which matters a lot in the final analysis of the game.
Punjab have been on the tenterhooks during the last two seasons as far as qualification to the knock-out stages is concerned, but haven’t quite managed it. Their young brigade is their biggest strength and consistency is the key for them. It is a side that has gelled well during the last two seasons and a lot would depend on how their youngsters contribute. As Raman said, “The domestic players being in good form is a good sign as they form a vital part in the IPL. In the previous editions, you would have seen that the domestic players have played a big role for the teams that have done well.”
Perhaps the youngsters will pave way for Punjab’s maiden trophy triumph, this time.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)