IPL 6 Team Preview: Kings XI Punjab
Unlike other teams in the IPL, Kings XI Punjab don’t believe in spending on big names. The mere fact that the only player in their side with earnings of over a million dollars is Australian David Hussey (bought for 1.4 million in 2011), shows that owners Ness Wadia and Preity Zinta don’t believe in the theory that big names win you matches. Since Yuvraj Singh left in 2011, the Mohali based side, under the leadership of the vastly experienced Adam Gilchrist, have opted for a mix of overseas T20 specialists and young Indian talents.
In some ways, Kings XI Punjab is a lot like Arsenal. Not only does the Punjab side wear a red and white jersey akin to the jersey of the London-based EPL club, but the key mantras of both sides are similar: we don’t buy stars, we make them.
In the inaugural edition, Shaun Marsh scored heaps of runs for KXIP and won the Orange Cap, which also earned himself an entry to the Australian side. In the 2011 season, Paul Valthaty’s exploits transformed him from a fringe player in the Ranji Trophy to a house-hold name in Indian cricket. Last season, KXIP provided the platform for youngsters like Parvinder Awana, Mandeep Singh, Gurkeerat Mann and Bhargav Bhatt to showcase their abilities on the international stage. While Mandeep Singh ended up as the highest run-getter for KXIP, Parvinder Awana’s strong bowling displays earned him a call-up to India’s T20 side. Even the young Mann and Bhatt had their moments of brilliance, and managed to hog the limelight for sometime.
However, what Kings XI Punjab lack is a history like that of Arsenal. Although Kings XI did reach the semifinal in the inaugural edition of the IPL, that was the closest they got to getting their hands on the IPL trophy. Their performances in the subsequent two years only went downhill, which also led to a complete overhaul of their side in 2011. Since Adam Gilchrist took over the reigns of their side, Kings XI Punjab have constantly been a mid-table side. In 2011, they finished fifth and missed the semis spot by a whisker, after losing to Deccan Chargers in their last game. Even last season, they ended up sixth best and were in contention for the semis till their very last game.
Explosive Top Order - Adam Gilchrist, Shaun Marsh, Mandeep Singh, David Hussey – Kings XI Punjab, even despite the lack of big names, boast of a formidable top four. In T20 cricket, a strong foundation can be instrumental towards a win, and Kings XI have a top order that can dismantle any bowling attack from the very first ball.
T20 Specialists – Players like Azhar Mahmood, David Hussey and Dimitri Mascarenhas are T20 veterans and have played in T20 leagues all over the world. The vast experience these players bring with them will not only help KXIP on the field, but their invaluable inputs in team meetings will immensely help the younger lot grow as fine cricketers.
Gilly’s Leadership - Adam Gilchrist is one captain who backs the youngsters till the end. A man with a charismatic demeanour to go along with a gentleman-like nature, Gilchrist has always been a favourite among the youngsters. His captaincy was one of the reasons why the Deccan Chargers won the IPL in 2009 after finishing bottom in 2008. Considering his age, he might not play all the games this season and may hand over the captaincy to David Hussey, but Gilchrist’s input, even from the dressing room, will be invaluable to KXIP’s cause.
Lack of big Indian names – The fact that Piyush Chawla and Praveen Kumar are the biggest Indian names in KXIP’s ranks is a cause of worry for the Punjab side. Considering only four overseas can play in the eleven, the lack of experienced Indian cricketers might become a setback to KXIP’s success this season.
Poor starters - Kings XI Punjab have always been poor starters in the IPL. In each season barring 2011, they lost at least the first two game of their IPL campaign before winning a match. Winning is a habit and so is losing, so KXIP will have to make sure they don’t lose momentum at the start of the season by losing the first few games.
Lack of depth in bowling – Out of all the nine teams, Kings XI Punjab probably have one of the weakest bowling attacks. Their inability to bowl consistent lines have cost them dearly, which has also led to their downfall on many occasions. Piyush Chawla can been highly erratic at times, while Praveen Kumar has the tendency to concede runs in the death overs. Awana has shown potential, but can get wayward at times. The only glimmer of hope for KXIP is the guileful Azhar Mahmood, who knows all the tricks in the book to curtail the flow of runs in T20 cricket.
Players to Watch Out for: Shaun Marsh, Azhar Mahmood, Mandeep Singh
X-Factor - Last year, Australia’s Luke Pomersbach made headlines for molesting a woman and assaulting her fiance at a hotel in New Delhi. But this time, he will be looking to redeem himself with his performances on the field.
KXIP have signed Under-19 pace bowler Sandeep Sharma, who will be looking to make a transition to the senior level. Sharma was the highest wicket taker during the Under-19 World Cup last year.
1) Adam Gilchrist (61) has captained the second-highest number of games in the IPL after Chennai Super Kings’ captain MS Dhoni (78).
2) Adam Gilchrist and Shaun Marsh hold the record for the highest partnership in the IPL. They scored 206 for the 2nd wicket against Royal Challengers Bangalore at Dharamsala in 2011.
3) Praveen Kumar (1919) has conceded the second-highest number of runs in the IPL after Irfan Pathan (1975).
The Squad: Adam Gilchrist (c)(wk), Aniket Choudhary, Azhar Mahmood, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, David Hussey, David Miller, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Gurkeerat Mann Singh, Harmeet Singh Bansal, Luke Pomersbach, Manan Vohra, Mandeep Singh, Manpreet Gony, Nitin Saini, Parvinder Awana, Paul Valthaty, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, R Sathish, Ryan Harris, Sandeep Sharma, Shaun Marsh, Siddharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh