Possibly the side who fared the poorest in the 2018-2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) cycle, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) had another disappointing season in 2020. Though the face of their frustration changed from R Ashwin to KL Rahul, the results didn't quite vary. A late, unexpected streak of six wins notwithstanding, KXIP hardly looked like they would make the playoffs - whether one judged by their squad makeup, or the form of key players.
Although questions were raised on several aspects of his strategy as skipper, KL Rahul's batting seems to be a long-term pillar for KXIP. Chris Gayle defied age in the games he played, while Mayank Agarwal shone brightly as opener. Mohammad Shami showed his experience when it mattered, most memorably in a Super Over defence of just five runs, while Nicholas Pooran had star contributions too. Young pacer Arshdeep Singh showed guile with the ball, as did impressive legspinner Ravi Bishnoi.
However, KXIP's season of horrors saw them lose games from winning positions, with silly mistakes on the field coupled with strange team decisions leading to humiliation for their fans. Here are five players KXIP should release ahead of the auctions.
#5 Hardus Viljoen (IPL 2019-2020)
T20 globe-trotting bowler Hardus Viljoen was acquired by KXIP in the 2019 auctions in a bid to provide teeth to their bowling attack. Though the South African pacer was available in 2020, he did not have a single opportunity to contribute despite the wheels coming off from KXIP's campaign.
In 2019, Viljoen played 6 matches for the franchise, picking up 7 wickets at a poor economy rate of 9.65. With several overseas bowlers in the KXIP squad, and only two spots up for grabs, the team management never quite gave Viljoen the nod. However, a poor 2019 meant the faith in Viljoen was also low. KXIP has a reputation of picking up the hottest signings of the season, and the likelihood of Viljoen featuring for them in the future looks quite small. Thus, he looks to be on his way out.
#4 Karun Nair (IPL 2018-2020)
A consistent performer in IPL franchises such as Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals, Karun Nair joined KXIP in 2018 after the franchise splurged INR 5.6 crore for his services. After a moderately impressive season in 2018, a change-up in the franchise's plans saw him pushed to the backburner. He played just one game in IPL 2019 and four in IPL 2020 for modest returns.
With Nair being overlooked by the Indian Cricket Team a few series after his thrilling Test triple-century against England, KXIP has found it hard to justify his consistent selection. Although the Karnataka batsman has a solid middle-order reputation domestically, it was not up for display in his few outings in IPL 2020. KXIP are better off going for an explosive middle-order batsman for cheaper - they may even buy back Nair and get a better deal since he may not have too many takers.