One of three teams to win the title so far, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) performed weakly in the twelfth in the IPL, with only 1 semi-final and 1 final appearance in 12 seasons. After trying 13 captains in 12 seasons so far, he has a new captain (KL Rahul) for this season. The team has a more balanced and organized form this year than in years past. Unlike the previous two years when they dominated in the first half, the Kings would try to keep pace in the game, but were awful in the second half of the tournament and could not make it to the playoffs.
With Anil Kumble’s arrival as a coach and a change in Rahul’s leadership, KXIP is expecting a change in fortunes. They look to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014 when they lost to Kolkata Knight Riders in the final.
KL Rahul (C), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh, Sheldon Cottrell, Ishan Porel, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, Mujib ur Rehman, Arshadip Singh, Hardas Willogen, M Ashwin, J Suchit, Harit Brar, Darshan Nalkande, Glenn Maxwell, James Neesham, Chris Jordan, Krishnappa Gowtham, Deepak Hooda, Tajinder Singh Dhillon, Nicholas Puran, Prabhasimran Singh.
Kings XI Punjab has a well-balanced team that covers most of the bases. For KXIP the finish seems to be in safe hands. Sarfaraz Khan’s terrific form also develops well for the side and is a very powerful middle-order in KXIP, with Pooran, Maxwell, Neesham, and Sarfraz. Not to be forgotten, he has KL Rahul at the top as his life.
His batting options in the top three are KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Karun Nair, and Mayank Agarwal. Mandeep Singh, Deepak Hooda, and Krishnappa Gowtham can bat for six or seven runs and any of Maxwell or Puran can be promoted to three. This team has flexibility and quality which is their greatest strength.
KXIP traded R Ashwin to the Delhi capitals during the transfer window, consequently, the spin department now lacks experience despite having sufficient quality and variety. Mujib ur Rehman, Ravi Bishnoi, K Gautham, and J Suchit will have to handle the spin department, in which Maxwell and Hooda will participate. Inexperience is something that other teams can take advantage of. However, with Kumble as a coach, this loss is unlikely to bother him much.
Death bowling has long been an Achilles heel for KXIP and it is no different this time. Chris Jordan is the only trusted death bowler on the side. Mohammed Shami’s death overs have been hot and cold so far and the team lacks other Indian fast bowlers. When Shami is hurt he may have a strong headache filling his shoes because at this point all back-ups are fairly fresh.
Players to watch out for
KL Rahul – Comes after having a wonderful year with the bat in the newly appointed tournament. KXIP’s top scorer in the last two seasons, Rahul will once again be the mainstay of batting. With a more reliable middle-order, this time, the captain will have to play to his strengths, attacking the opposition from the start. If Rahul carries on his Purple Patch this season and if unlike last season, he gets some support, this team might be a good playoff contender.
Glenn Maxwell – The only architect to reach the final of the KXIP IPL, Glenn Maxwell was the lead architect. A year after leaving the season and IPL with Delhi, Maxwell is again with KXIP. As evident from the past two seasons, KXIP’s poor middle-order was unable to capitalize on the platforms set by the openers, costing them several games. However, with the in-form Maxwell on the side, the middle-order now assumes a monotonous form. The much-awaited finishing role is now in the safe hands of Maxwell. The Australian all-rounder is also more than a working off-spinner, known for delivering significant success. KXIP will be expecting Maxwell to repeat its form of the 2014 season.
Chris Jordan – England’s limited-overs specialist could prove to be the answer to the bowling issues of KXIP’s death. Jordan has been brilliant at death with his variations and accuracy. His experience playing around the world in T20 Leagues makes him a more valuable asset for the squad. A poor death led to several key games at KXIP last season, but if Jordan demonstrates his potential, KXIP may be able to shut down crunch games.
KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair / Sarfaraz Khan, Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, James Neesham, Deepak Hooda / Krishnappa Gowtham, Ravi Bishnoi, Chris, Jordan, Ishan porrell, Mohammed Shami
The Punjab-based franchise starts as black horses at this time. If Rahul continues his Purple Patch with the bat and receives help from others, there is no excuse why KXIP may not be able to make the playoffs the first time since 2014.