South African David Miller is one of the two players retained by the Kings XI Punjab franchise © PTI
Kings XI Punjab retained David Miller and Manan Vohra ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL), 2014. While Miller’s retention was somewhat expected, keeping Manan Vohra is a gamble and they would hope it pays off. Abhijit Banare analyses what could be Punjab’s strategy going forward.
If there was any team that would have started the season with a clean sheet it would have been Kings XI Punjab. Ever since the first season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), this team has been consistently languishing in the second half of the points table. It was only during the maiden season that they made it through to the second round. And looking at the key players they had in their roster during the previous three seasons, Punjab had nothing to lose in this auction. They either had the option of not retaining anyone and bid for their main batsman David Miller under ‘Right to Match’; or keeping the South African at the outset. Punjab chose the latter — a sensible call.
Why Manan Vohra?
Manan Vohra’s selection came out of the blue. A player whose top score was only 43 in 12 innings, one would have said that he hardly stood a chance, but Punjab have went ahead and too a gamble of having a good Indian player ahead of the established stars in David Hussey and Shaun Marsh. Investing in Vohra , they have not just gambled on a young player coming good, but also cut their purse considerably when the auction is held in February.
But if we consider potential, Vohra can still be a good catch. In his last 14 innings for Punjab (domestic) and in the U-25 tournaments, the youngster has scored four centuries and three fifties, which includes a 187 against Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy. Moreover, his abilities came in for great praise during the previous season where commentators lauded his technique. Vohra could be one of the key players in the Punjab middle-order. On any given day, Vohra hardly stood a chance in comparison to Hussey, Marsh or even Mandeep Singh. But we have often seen IPL springing up surprises. It takes just two or three consecutive innings for a player to gain momentum and then convert it into a good season.
To dig a bit into the pool of players Punjab had, among Indians, Piyush Chawla, Parvinder Awana, Manpreet Gony, Mandeep Singh and Sandeep Sharma featured consistently in the playing XI in the previous edition. But none of them had a record which could instill confidence in the team owners to spend crores to retain them.
Whom will they bid for at the auction?
Like Rajasthan; Punjab too were walking on the moneyball strategy with lesser known players. Their target will more or less be on the same lines but they would be smarter in understanding the skill and output of the players going forward. They will surely be looking at Indian performers, especially those who sizzled in the Ranji Trophy.
It takes just two or three consecutive innings for a player to gain momentum and then convert it into a good season
In terms of star players, there is a good chance that Punjab will eye Yuvraj Singh. The southpaw was part of the now defunct Pune Warriors India and would go under the hammer. Yuvraj, though out of form, can never be written off. There is always a lurking danger of him striking form anytime. Whether Punjab will see a leader in him is something to wait and watch. Yuvraj, in this form, is likely to command a much lesser price. And Punjab not having a good history of splurging on big players will eye for Yuvraj on a comparatively lesser cost.
At the end of it, this is just one more opportunity for Punjab to start with a clean slate and script their success story. . They need a leader, a match-winner and every ingredient that goes in the making of a good team which would include an equally effective coach. Punjab have a lot to look forward to and it all boils down to how hungry the owners are to put together a really strong team.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)