Kings XI Punjab hoping for a reversal of fortunes

The Punjab franchise will be dependent on R. Ashwin’s planning and how he uses the new spin entrants, Varun Chakravarthy and Murugan Ashwin.

Kings XI Punjab would expect some big hitting from Chris Gayle and K. L. Rahul once again.   -  K. R. Deepak

Gone are the days when IPL franchises depended on catchment areas to pick their trump cards. The new look of Kings XI Punjab in the 11th edition of the tournament in 2018 redefined sheen, courage, aggression and experiments with truth.

Kings XI had slipped towards the latter part of the league, but its start was phenomenal.

With faces new, ambitions high and a bowling captain in Ravichandran Ashwin from Tamil Nadu, the Punjab franchise had undergone a massive revamp; most of its star players came from south India. The terrific Karnataka trio — Mayank Agarwal, K. L. Rahul and Karun Nair — toughened the batting; Rahul was also thrown the wicketkeeping gloves. The constant game awareness switched on his beast mode.

“I will try to bring in some aggression in the team and a positive change. No real changes as such, it is a situational sport, you go in and try to read the situation and see what the team demands of you. So you can’t really prepare for that. You need to ensure you are in a good position and getting the ball well, that’s the preparation you do,” he had explained his role to Sportstar. The ninja mentality reflected in his batting as he notched up 659 runs comprising six fifties.

 

The attitude is not likely to change as the franchise begins its preparations for IPL 2019. The team will revolve around Rahul’s leather-hunt mission at the top of the order. He has set a high standard of electric starts as opener.

Tamil Nadu’s Varun Chakravarthy — the new IPL millionaire who is set to earn Rs8.4 crore — and Murugan Ashwin are the latest additions to the spin department. They can hoodwink any batsman as the homework will be monitored by the seasoned Ashwin.

Varun and Murugan belong to the category of new-age spin bowlers, the kind where you bowl six different balls in an over. The TNPL and Chennai League-certified Varun apparently has seven — off-break, leg-break, googly, carrom ball, flipper, top-spinner and a yorker-like slider.

But injury remains a concern for the Tamil Nadu mystery spinner. Varun had injured his shoulder while playing for his club Vijay CC in a first-division game in Chennai, and was subsequently ruled out of Tamil Nadu’s squad for the group stage of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. While he has joined the Kings XI camp in Mohali, the team support staff is monitoring him closely. Till the last minute at the auctions for 2018, Chris Gayle had no takers. When the world dismissed him as finished, Punjab believed in the Universe Boss’ abilities, who hit the first hundred of the season (104* off 63 balls) against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Gayle will lead the overseas crop. He is likely to be a regular in the playing XI owing to his maverick form that surfaced in the limited-overs series against England — 424 runs in four innings with two hundreds and two fifties.

Caribbean Premier League (CPL) product Nicholas Pooran, also a wicketkeeper, will turn a few heads for his power-hitting skills. The left-hander also carries a heartwarming back story.

Three years ago, a road accident in Trinidad had almost finished his career. The 23-year-old had sustained injuries to his knees and ankle but has bounced back. Pooran symbolises the typical Calypso-style of batsmanship, which Windies T20I skipper Carlos Brathwaite had described as “expressive, positive and emotional.”