IPL 2019: Kings XI Punjab team preview
Batsmen: Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Sarfraz Khan, David Miller, Mandeep Singh.
Bowlers: Andrew Tye, Ankit Rajpoot, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mohammad Shami, Hardus Viljoen, Varun Chakravarthy, Murugan Ashwin, Arshdeep Singh, Agnivesh Ayachi, Ravichandran Ashwin.
All-rounders: Sam Curran, Moises Henriques, Harpreet Brar, Darshan Nalkande.
Wicketkeepers: KL Rahul, Nicholas Pooran, Prabhsimran Singh.
For a team that is yet to win silverware at the IPL, Kings XI Punjab have never been short of the big names. Despite that being the case, apart from a couple of playoffs, they’ve almost invariably found themselves at the bottom half of the table.
After the first few weeks of every season, they seem like the favourites. But things fall apart very quickly in the latter stages.
It’s been a mix of team management issues and put simply, poor combinations.
After the week-long break last season, things completely unraveled for Punjab. It almost seemed as if the players had switched off and gone for a vacation (if you know what I mean)!
Somewhere between Chris Gayle living it up in the houseboats of Kerala and the others soaking in the luxury of Dubai, Punjab lost the IPL. Had it been a team bonding getaway, perhaps things could’ve panned out differently.
Rumours of a rift between the coach and the owners didn’t help the situation either.
KL Rahul, however, was a standout the entire season. The Indian opener amassed over 650 runs at an astonishing strike rate of 159. Although things took a turn for the worse after that season, Rahul will be confident of doing well this time around, with the added motivation of a potential World Cup spot up for grabs.
Predicted Playing XI
1) KL Rahul (wk)
2) Chris Gayle
3) Mayank Agarwal
4) Karun Nair
5) David Miller
6) Mandeep Singh
7) Sam Curran
8) Ravichandran Ashwin (c)
9) Varun Chakravarthy
10) Andrew Tye
11) Mohammad Shami
Whether there was an altercation within the team last season, nobody knows for sure. What we do know though, is that the current squad seems to be an average one at best. Their all-rounder stocks are almost as good as zilch.
Have a look at the teams that have won the IPL over the years; there’s always the presence of more than one quality dual-skilled cricketer within the squad. In this team, Sam Curran and Moises Henriques are the only notable ones.
The English import isn’t much of an all-rounder in this format (average of 16, with a strike rate of 119). If the IPL was happening in England, his inclusion might have made for some thought.
Henriques, in my opinion, is way past his prime. In recent years he has hardly rolled his arm over in the BBL, and his current batting form does not dictate selection.
Another glaring issue with the squad is the absence of part time bowlers. The playing XI will have a shake-up if even one of the 5 main bowlers isn’t doing the job. There simply isn’t a sixth bowling option.
Henriques will then have to come into the side. And in that scenario, the balance of the side would go awry. They could possibly slot in local all-rounder Harpreet Brar, of whom I’ve heard some good things.
One of the many mistakes that Punjab were guilty of last season was not playing David Miller enough. The South African was given a paltry three games, from which he scored 74 runs. He’s a very versatile player in the middle order, with a very effective sweep shot to counter the spinners.
At his belligerent best, the southpaw will win you games almost single-handedly. Even on bad days, Miller is good enough to score 20 to 25 runs and grab some stunners in the deep. Moreover, the experience and knowledge of the Indian conditions and surfaces that Miller has garnered over the past 8 years of the IPL is invaluable.
If you’re wondering why I’m pressing on the experience aspect, just have a look at CSK. Their entire success story is based on experience and loyalty.
If Miller doesn’t click, Nicholas Pooran is another explosive option in the middle order. Everyone was impressed by him in the 3rd T20I against India last year.
The big positive for this side is the strong Indian core. KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohammad Shami are good enough to fit into the first XI of any side. Naturally, as a result, they will have to take over the bulk of the workload.
Last season, KXIP was a show run solely by KL Rahul. That will have to change this year.
There’s a lot of pressure on Shami, who hasn’t done much in his short history with the IPL. At an average economy rate of more than 10, he’s got his work cut out.
What really aids Shami though, is current form. His recent Test success seems to have spilled over to the other formats. Over the past few months, Shami’s stocks as a death bowler have upped, and with the new ball he has always been a threat.
Mayank Agarwal had a woeful time of it last season. But a lot of that poor form can be attributed to the team management playing musical chairs with his batting position. I’d ideally want him as an opener, but Gayle being in the side doesn’t allow the team that luxury. He'd be good enough at 3 though.
Mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy doesn’t have much of a margin for error. With Mujeeb most likely warming the bench at the start of the season, the Tamil Nadu spinner cannot afford to have too many bad days.
He’s going to have to make things work right from game one. I just hope for his sake that he doesn’t have the same fate as KC Cariappa, who had incidentally represented the same franchise.
The homecoming of Mandeep Singh is a big plus. I thought RCB made a poor choice by letting him go. But on the flipside, Stoinis in his current form isn’t a bad exchange.
Mandeep had enhanced his reputation as a finisher with his stint at RCB, and that’s exactly the role he’ll be playing with Punjab. He’s another one of those versatile batsmen who can be used at any given junction of the game.
With such an imbalanced squad, I can’t see much light at the end of the tunnel for KXIP. If there is that bit of light, it is in the form of Mike Hesson.
The appointment of the Kiwi, who’s known to be a very shrewd student of the game, might be just what Punjab needs. It’s not that teams haven’t done it before.
The KKR squad of 2012, from the outset, didn’t look like a winning one, but the team management made it work. If Punjab can pull off something similar, it would be nothing short of a million-dollar heist.