In the last four seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Kings XI Punjab’s (KXIP) have not managed to finish in the top four. While there have been a fifth-placed finish, a seventh-placed finish, the team has had two last-spot finishes (eighth position). While the coaches and captains have come and gone, the below-par results have been a constant.

However, in Mike Hesson, KXIP have managed to bring on board a coach with an international pedigree and the know-how of changing a team’s fortunes for the better. With Ravichandran Ashwin, a captain and a cricketer who thrives on experiments, at the forefront and more importantly, with a more balanced side at their disposal, KXIP can harbour hopes of winning their maiden IPL title.

Here are the five players who can be the game-changers as KXIP target their maiden IPL triumph.

Chris Gayle:

If Michael Hussey is Mr Cricket, Chris Gayle can easily be Mr T20 Cricket. While the running between the wicket is an issue, Gayle’s ability to make up for it makes him a key player any team he plays for. The recent surge in form while playing for the West Indies has given the swashbuckler a second wing of sorts and come IPL, a team can bank on Gayle to go big and take on the opposition like only he can.

Gayle features in the top-ten list of IPL run-getters and going by his dominance in the shortest format of the game, KXIP will bank on him, first to get them to the playoffs and then possibly to their maiden IPL title.

KL Rahul:

Although KXIP struggled in the second half of the tournament last year, KL Rahul shone bright. The talented Indian batsman will be one of the key players for KXIP this season as they look to get over the last year’s disappointment and claim their maiden IPL title. KL Rahul, who took the bowling attacks to the cleaners, was KXIP’s leading run-getter and was ranked third in the overall list last year.

While his off-field issues and in-and-out appearances in the Indian team have been the talking points, the youngster, who is likely to be KXIP’s first-choice opener, will be eager to set the stage on fire and make sure he hops onto the flight to England for the World Cup with the Indian team.

Mayank Agarwal:

After scoring a dollop of runs in the domestic cricket and for India A over the last few years, Mayank Agarwal finally made it to the Indian team and in some style, scoring two solid half-centuries across two Tests against Australia in Australia. While he struggled to take his form in domestic cricket into the IPL last year, this could well be his year.

With KL Rahul and Chris Gayle are expected to make it to the World Cup squads of their respective teams, Agarwal may get a longer rope, and this could help him settle in and score big. More so after his match-winning unbeaten 57-ball 85-run blitz to power Karnataka to Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019 heroics.

Varun Chakravarthy:

An architect-turned-Tamil Nadu Premier League sensation to an IPL million-dollar baby. KXIP went all guns blazing during the auction to buy Varun Chakravarthy, shelling out Rs. 8.4 crores.

The 27-year-old can bowl as many as seven variations – leg-break, off-break, top-spinner, slider to york the batsmen, carrom ball, googly, flipper. With more than handful variations at his disposal, he, if he manages to keep his composure and shows heart against the big-hitters, can become a potent weapon for the R Ashwin-led side in IPL 2019.

While this will be his first IPL season, he has been a talked about commodity. Harbhajan Singh, last year in December, had taken to the social media, saying that Varun Chakravarthy has the potential to play for the national team.

“Had a close look at him last year at CSK nets… This guy Varun Chakravarthy have the potential to play for INDIA.. selectors should keep an eye on him.. he is a fast and furious spin bowler.. another mystery spinner,” Bhajji had tweeted.  (Link to tweet)

Mujeeb ur Rahman:

He was KXIP second-highest wicket-taker with 14 wickets in 11 matches, with Ashwin, at times, using him as an attacking bowling option at the top. While the injury issues kept the young Afghanistan spinner from a couple of KXIP games, he, whenever he played, kept the things tight and ended up as his team’s most economical bowler with an economy rate of 6.99 runs/over; something which any team will happily settle for in a format where the batsmen go hammer and tongs at the drop of a hat.

While there are as many as three more frontline spinners in KXIP squad in addition to Mujeeb – R Ashwin, Varun Chakravarthy and Murugan Ashwin, the right-arm off-break bowler, with his ability to dry up the runs and take wickets, will be the one bowler that the oppositions will keep a close eye on.