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With a strong squad boasting of power-packed players, Kings XI Punjab will look to live up to expectations after an inconsistent run in the last five seasons. Abhijit Banare analyses the squad.
If Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) look back at their past seasons, it’s only those odd special performances which they can feel proud of. But as a team, it hardly clicked together due to lacking in strategy in picking the squad. Yet, Adam Gilchrist did a fine job in dealing with the team and getting the best out of them. But during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 Auction, they have played their cards right and have picked a squad which has the firepower to take it to its maiden IPL title. They retained two players before the auction: the explosive left-hander, David Miller and a promising youngster, Manan Vohra.
Captain: George Bailey
There will be the same old debate of an overseas captain proving to be less effective in the IPL. But Punjab have had a good experience with Gilchrist — the captain, though a lot of that good work was undone with his poor batting. However, in Bailey, Punjab have another shot at the title with an Aussie captain. In Bailey, the franchise has chosen an apt Twenty20 (T20) captain. There are many advantages to this. Bailey already has the experience leading Australia. Unlike the previous season, where Gilchrist had to drop himself, Bailey is a strong T20 batsman and is likely to lead them for the entire season. With a memorable One-Day International (ODI) series in India back in October 2013, Bailey will be more confident of leading Punjab. And perhaps a good place to be back among the runs after a forgettable run for Australia recently.
Key Indian players
Virender Sehwag: Even though he isn’t in the best of form, Sehwag does give an assuring feel for a team at the start of the innings. IPL gives him a great opportunity to come back into limelight.
Rishi Dhawan: Even though his team didn’t qualify for the knockouts of Ranji Trophy, he ended up being the highest wicket-taker. And he’s equally good with the bat down the order. Didn’t get too many opportunities, while playing for Mumbai Indians (MI) though.
Lakshmipathy Balaji: He has been an under-rated bowler in T20s. He’ll be itching to prove his worth.
Murali Kartik: The only experienced spinner in the squad. He is among the most economical bowlers in the tournament and can tighten the noose from one end even, if he doesn’t pick up wickets
Key Overseas players
Mitchell Johnson: He is going to be the one bowler, every batsman will dread to face. His red hot form started with the IPL last season, while playing for Mumbai.
Glenn Maxwell: He doesn’t need much introduction and also perhaps it is time for him to make an impact on the field rather than hit the headlines for being a high priced player at IPL auctions. He can be a destructive batsman and the earlier he comes to bat in the innings, the better it is for the team.
David Miller: If Maxwell can accelerate, while batting in the top four of the line-up, Miller can provide the finishing touches to an innings. Due to a poor batting line-up last season, Miller had too many things to manage. This time around, the role seems set for him to attack the bowlers with a solid looking batting line-up upfront.
It can be a dilemma for Punjab, while picking their playing XI, especially with overseas players. They have two match-winners in Shaun Marsh and Thisara Perera, but both of them will have to warm the benches with Maxwell, Miller, Bailey and Johnson looking certain to be there in the team.
There’s Wriddhiman Saha, the lone wicketkeeper batsman, Sandeep Sharma is a bright young pacer, who did well in the last edition. There’s Cheteshwar Pujara who is likely to open the batting with Sehwag. Among the overseas players, Burean Hendricks is a skilled South African pacer who makes good use of the slower bouncers.
One of the two retained players, Manan Vohra will be a player to watch out for. Gurkeerat Mann Singh has been there since last season as is pacer, Parvinder Awana. It would be intriguing to see whether Punjab will be able make space for one of the top Ranji Trophy wicket-takers in Anureet Singh.
It collectively possesses a batting line-up which can power its way to good totals even in the most testing situations. In Maxwell, they have a batsman who can score against top quality bowling. Sehwag’s ability is always a threat for the opposition. Bailey can be a great batsman to have in the middle-order. The pace bowling department looks settled with Johnson, Parvinder Awana and Balaji in the setup. This is one team that can chase down big totals and can amass monstrous totals first up.
One area which the franchise hasn’t focused well is the spinner’s slot. In Kartik, they have a clever, economical spinner. But leg-spinner, Akshar Patel doesn’t have much experience and might be used as a mystery card. If recent records are anything to go by, even United Arab Emirates (UAE) tracks have been conducive for slower bowlers. Another area of concern is that of Saha. He surely brings solidity to the batting lineup. In case of him having a tough time, the team management though, will have to think twice because there is no other specialist wicketkeeper.
Except for the semi-final finish in 2008, Punjab have been hardly impressive in IPL. They missed out narrowly on reaching semi-finals, ending up fifth in 2009. The next year was a forgettable season for them, as they ended up last. In 2011, they again missed out ending up fifth in the points table. And for the next two seasons, they remained sixth in the table.
(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)
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