PUNJAB KINGS: A TEAM PREVIEW

PUNJAB KINGS: A TEAM PREVIEW

Kl Rahul led Kings XI Punjab played some amazing cricket last year and were involved in some one in the decades type memories but unfortunately they failed to turn those moments their way. Last year they won some of the unbelievable matches in the tournament history but ended up losing some of the simpler ones. Such was their last season.

But this year they changes the name of the franchise and looking to write their newly changed name on that trophy. KL Rahul is the main player for their title hunt this year if he gives you a 600+ runs season at a good strike rate then this year they have the capabilities to eventually win the touranemnt.

Where have they finished in this cycle?

2018: 7th || 2019: 6th || 2020: 6th

Last season bugbear

Despite their strong comeback, Punjab’s inability to close out games led to their early exit in 2020 – the team being let down by some of the big overseas names. With the pacers leaking runs in the death overs – Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh, Chris Jordan and Cottrell, all having an economy in excess of 8.5 – and lack of runs from the middle order, especially Maxwell, it was more pressure on the top order. KL Rahul’s strike rate of 129.34 had to do with the lack of depth in the batting order, according to batting coach Wasim Jaffer.

What changes this year?

In their bid to right the wrongs from the previous year, the Kings have beefed up their pace department with Richardson and Meredith coming in. Richardson was the top wicket-taker in the BBL 2020-21 season, bagging 29 scalps at an average of 16.31 with an economy of 7.69. He’ll be the ideal partner for Shami – both at the start and the death – while Meredith’s ability to hit the hard lengths at a good pace will be a venue-centric option for Punjab.

Tactics Watch

In an interview with TOI, Jaffer had promised that “this time around, everyone will see an aggressive KL Rahul for sure.” It isn’t the case of Punjab adding more depth to their batting that frees up Rahul at the top. But the change in personnel and the nature of pitches where Punjab play the majority of their games, will give Rahul the liberty to play his shots.

Uncapped Player Watch

“We got Shahrukh!” said Preity Zinta with a wide smile during the IPL 2021 auction. While Shahrukh Khan, the actor and team owner, is a familiar face, Shahrukh, the batsman, has been making the right noises in the lead up to the tournament. “He reminds me, a bit like Pollard actually,” said Kumble in a Punjab Kings’ video post. The 25-year-old middle-order batsman from Tamil Nadu can pack a lot of punch with the bat, evidenced by his performance in the Syed Mushtaq Ali quarterfinal against Himachal Pradesh. Tamil Nadu were reduced to 66 for 5 in a chase of 136 but Shahrukh showed no nerves as he struck an unbeaten 40 off 19 balls. He was also in good touch during the Vijay Hazare Trophy, scoring 198 runs, including three fifties, at an average of 66.

Prabhsimran Singh and Ravi Bishnoi will be the other uncapped players to watch out for. Although Prabhsimran didn’t do much in the two IPL games he played last season, he fared well in the SMA competition recently. He was the third highest run-getter in the tournament with 341 runs at an average of 85.25 and a strike rate of 142.08, and his inclusion at the top of the order will free up some space for Punjab in the overseas department. Bishnoi, meanwhile, will be the lead spinner for the side this season and he’ll be hoping to build on his good show in the previous IPL in which he picked up 12 wickets and had an economy of 7.37.

Likely best XI

KL Rahul (c & wk), Mayank Agarwal, Prabhsimran Singh, Nicholas Pooran, Shahrukh Khan, Deepak Hooda, Fabian Allen, Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith, Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi

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