At the halfway stage in the previous edition of the Indian Premier League, Kings XI Punjab looked certain to qualify; but seven games later, they ended up in their all too familiar half of the table. As they do, wholesale changes followed and a new group of players will once again wear the red and grey jersey.
KL Rahul was in tremendous form last time and Chris Gayle has been in dangerous touch of late which bodes well for KXIP. The franchise will need to make sure they have a single point of leadership this season to ensure a smooth campaign.
Here's taking a look at KXIP's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- The team has a good balance of power hitters and enablers. While Chris Gayle and David Miller can strike big, Karun Nair and Mayank Agarwal are their perfect foils. KL Rahul has both gears to his game and even the likes of Nair and Mayank can clear the boundary. The latter will be brimming with confidence after finally making his India debut and impressing everyone with his free-flowing batting.
- KXIP struggled with a bridge between their batsmen and bowlers last time but they have acquired the services of young Sam Curran to fill that void. Curran is an exciting lower order batsman who can add valuable overs with the ball in hand.
- KXIP lacks Indian batsmen who can lend a hand with the ball which means that they might be forced to play Curran at 6 and Ravi Ashwin may bat at number 7. If they do decide to pick Curran at 7, it means he will be tasked with bowling 4 overs and the team will not have any sixth option with the ball. Curran is not express pace and relies on the ball seaming which will not happen on the flat pitches in India. Thus, KXIP will be under pressure of either going a bowler short or a batsman short.
- The overdependence on mystery spinners is a cause of concern for the Punjab-based franchise. Last season, after a good start, Mujeeb ur Rahman was figured out and this season they have taken a punt on the unknown of Varun Chakravarthy. If the mysteries do get unravelled as it tends to happen with technology
- This IPL provides a fantastic opportunity for Ashwin to stake his claim in the Indian limited overs set up once again. Of late, Yuzvendra Chahal has been struggling and Kuldeep Yadav is also having some ordinary days. Ravindra Jadeja has been tried and the team might be tempted to go back to Ashwin if he put in a strong performance. The fact that he adds more with the bat than Chahal and Kuldeep will also work in his favour.
- This is the perfect opportunity for Mohammed Shami to hone his death bowling skills given how integral he will be to India's cause in the World Cup. Shami, who has been out of the T20 setup, can use this opportunity to slowly make his way back into the national team in the shortest format too.
- There were rumours that too many people were leading the KXIP team last season. Ashwin and Virender Sehwag have different approaches to cricket which led to differences in approach. This never helps in tournaments which have such few days between games. Thus, the management has to decide whose team KXIP is and give that person full control.
- History has shown that after a couple of bad games, KXIP tends to fall apart. In a tournament format such as the IPL, it is very easy to carry momentum forward to subsequent games and the team has to make sure that if it is losing momentum, someone takes leadership and arrests that.
Lokesh Rahul, Chris Gayle, Andrew Tye, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Karun Nair, David Miller, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mandeep Singh, Moises Henriques - Rs 1 crore, Nicholas Pooran, Mohammed Shami, Sarfaraz Khan, Varun Chakravarthy, Sam Curran, Hardus Viljoen, Arshdeep Singh, Darshan Nalkande, Prabhsimran Singh, Agnivesh Ayachi, Harpreet Brar, Murugan Ashwin