Kings XI Punjab: A bowler captain!

This team has a good mix of experience, exuberance of youth and a dash of flamboyance. Undoubtedly, it is capable of going all the way.

Ravichandran Ashwin has captained his state side Tamil Nadu in the past (leading them to Vijay Hazare triumph in 2009), but it will be the first time he will lead a side in the shortest format.   -  PTI

In the past decade of the Indian Premier League, one team that has consistently fallen short of realising its potential, by varying degrees, is Kings XI Punjab.

This year, for a change, the team will be headed by a bowler — R. Ashwin. The off-spinner leads a team that has some very exciting batsmen at the top, options in the experienced middle-order, a clutch of good fast bowlers and an adequate choice of spinners.

The team is spoilt for choice when it comes to picking the openers. Chris Gayle, K. L. Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Aaron Finch and Karun Nair offer plenty of combinations to Ashwin, team mentor Virender Sehwag and coach Brad Hodge.

Chris Gayle will be one of the major players of Kings XI.   -  Getty Images

 

The middle-order displays rich experience with Yuvraj Singh, David Miller and Manoj Tiwary ready to play the role expected of them.

The new-ball attack will be spearheaded by Andrew Tye. Left-armers Ben Dwarshuis and Barinder Sran along with the right-arm duo of Mohit Sharma and Ankit Rajpoot complete the list.

 

Among the spinners, apart from the off-spin of Ashwin, left-arm spinners Axar Patel, Mayank Dagar and leg-spinner Pradeep Sahu form the choices. With Ashwin sure of being in the playing XI, off-spinners Afghanistan’s Mujeeb ur Rahman and Jammu & Kashmir’s Manzoor Dar do not stand much of a chance to make an impact.

On the downside, the team is without a specialist wicketkeeper. Given the gruelling schedule, where a team may play a maximum of 17 matches, either Rahul or Finch could be the makeshift wicketkeeper. Indeed, it’s a poor reflection of the franchisee’s planning at the time of auction.

Overall, the team has a good mix of experience, exuberance of youth and a dash of flamboyance. Undoubtedly, this team is capable of going all the way.

The team

R. Ashwin (captain), K. L. Rahul, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Aaron Finch, Yuvraj Singh, David Miller, Marcos Stoinis, Manoj Tiwary, Andrew Tye, Ben Dwarshuis, MohitSharma, Ankit Rajpoot, Barinder Sran, Axar Patel, Pradeep Sahu, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Akshdeep Nath, Mayank Dagar and Manzoor Dar.

Player to Watch

Chris Gayle: After going unsold twice before being bought at his base price of Rs.2 crore, the 38-year-old Jamaican must be raring to go. Nursing a bruised pride, the dashing opener can be expected to come hard at the bowlers and reproduce the magic that made him the mascot of T20 cricket.

Captain speaks

Ravichandran Ashwin: It is a new challenge. You’ll not be able to predict my next move. All the players you think are going to open, will play in the middle order and all the middle-order batsmen will open. I’ll try and stay as unpredictable as possible. For me, it’s all about incorporating whatever I have learnt over the years. Lots of teams have weaknesses and every team will try and overcome that. Most people see the absence of a specialist wicket-keeper as a weakness for KXIP. On an average, in T20 games, every keeper gathers only six balls. So if our keeper can take those six balls, we will be fine.”