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Kings XI Punjab’s (KXIP) journey in the last 10 editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been turbulent. From finishing as runners up to being semi-finalists to having finished at the bottom end of the table on multiple occasions, KXIP has been though a lot. The KXIP franchise has been in the news for the wrong reasons as well— co-owners fighting, to being nearly suspended, and the infamous Sreesanth-Harbhajan slap gate.

Despite all the criticism, KXIP have a loyal fan base and remains as one of the most followed franchises. Come 2018, KXIP decided to overhaul their squad from earlier edition. They only retained Akshar Patel, and director of cricket, Virender Sehwag from 2017 season, in hopes of rebuilding a new team ethos. Ahead of the IPL player auctions, KXIP co-owners made it quite clear that they were hoping for a re-surge.

Preity Zinta went on a shopping spree during the player auctions, making it quite clear that she means business. Despite losing out on major players due to Right To Match (RTM) card. KXIP fiercely bid for players likes Ravichandran Ashwin, KL Rahul, Andrew Tye, Manzoor Dar and Karun Nair, and were able to snatch them from other franchises. They went on to pick players like Yuvraj Singh and Chris Gayle, more for their face value than form. They roped in Venkatesh Prasad, Brad Hodge in their support staff to help Sehwag.

Let us have a look into KXIP’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats going ahead.

Strengths: KXIP is a top-heavy side. Rahul, Aaron Finch, Yuvraj, Gayle, Nair, Mayank Agarwal and Manoj Tiwary make for a brilliant concoction of brutal strength and class. Tiwary, Rahul, Nair and Agarwal’s inclusion gives them more options and flexibility as these men are comfortable opening and also coming down the order. They also have a core group of all-rounders that can prove to be game changers. The likes of Stonis, Yuvraj and Gayle could also mentor younger players of the side and nurture them into superstars.

In Ashwin and Akshar, they have two world class finger spin bowlers. Their strength has moved from pace to spin. Apart from their strong Indian batting, spin is their best chance.

Weakness: KXIP visible weakness is their lack of renowned bowlers. Only Andrew Tye and Mohit Sharma are known faces. They did not retain Sandeep Sharma, who was one of their domestic stars over the season. Rajpoot, Dwarshuis and Sran will be under tremendous pressure to restrict opponents on flat pitches. They will be aided by Ashwin, Akshar, Yuvraj and Gayle. Their dearth of an established wicket-keeper can also bite them in the back during crunch situations.

Opportunities: With no baggage on their back, KXIP can will play freely without any pressure. It will be the perfect chance for Ashwin to display his cricketing acumen. He has the likes of Yuvraj, Sehwag, Miller and Gayle to fall back on if he is short on ideas; a rarity for once. KXIP boasts of domestic stars like Agarwal, Nair and Tiwary, who have been in splendid form the past season.

A good show in the IPL will push their stake for an India spot even more. The likes of Dar and Dagar have ample chance to prove their mantle and make a name for them. Dar, who hails from Jammu and Kashmir could very well be the dark horse of the KXIP team.

Threats: One of the major problem for KXIP will be how Ashwin’s methodical, intelligent brand of cricket gel well with Sehwag’s carefree and unapologetic approach. Lack of Ashwin’s leadership experience in high profile matches could be a drawback and he may want to look at the likes of Yuvraj, Gayle or Finch for aid.

It will interesting to see how Ashwin and Sehwag manage keep a balance between glamour and cricket. In a competition like IPL one can easily drift away from the core value of cricket and run towards the money and few hours of fame.

Squad: Akshar Patel, KL Rahul, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Andrew Tye*, Aaron Finch*, Marcus Stoinis*, Karun Nair, Mujeeb Zadran*, Ankit Singh Rajpoot, David Miller*, Mohit Sharma, Barinder Singh Sran, Yuvraj Singh, Chris Gayle*, Ben Dwarshuis*, Akshdeep Nath, Manoj Tiwary, Mayank Agarwal, Manzoor Dar, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar

* Overseas players