Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) has seen multiple tweaks in its ranks, from the players to the support staff, over the last few years, but a first Indian Premier League (IPL) title still eludes the side. The closest the franchise has come to winning the trophy was in 2014, when it made it to the final but lost to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) by three wickets.
Ever since then, the management has taken many initiatives to turn things around, but nothing has really worked for the team. Despite steady starts, KXIP has failed to make it to the final stages.
The 2020 season offers a chance for a new beginning.
After parting ways with Ravichandran Ashwin, KXIP has brought in some of the best in the business – Anil Kumble as head coach, Glenn Maxwell as an overseas player and Jonty Rhodes as fielding coach. And it has named K. L. Rahul captain for this season.
READ |IPL: Understanding the Indian Premier League's financial levers
With Kumble back as coach of an IPL franchise, there’s plenty to look forward to. Known to be a strict disciplinarian, it will be interesting to see how Kumble handles the team, which has a number of top stars in its ranks – Rahul, Maxwell, Chris Gayle and Mohammed Shami, among them.
On paper, KXIP’s batting unit looks steady, with Rahul leading the charge. A lot, however, will depend on Maxwell and Gayle. The Aussie had taken a break from cricket to address his mental health issues, and it will be interesting to see whether he can justify his huge price tag – he was bought for ₹10.71 crore in the auction. Gayle, meanwhile, has been inconsistent for the last few years, but he has vast experience and is capable of destroying any bowling attack.
To add to its strength, KXIP has some promising Indian cricketers like Sarfaraz Khan. The Mumbai batsman had a dream run in the Ranji Trophy, where he amassed 928 runs. In a big-ticket tournament like the IPL, Sarfaraz will be keen on letting his willow do the talking.
The franchise’s bowling department, too, has enough firepower.
Spearheaded by Shami, the unit is the perfect mix of vibrancy and experience. While the India international will play a key role, he will be ably supported by Sheldon Cottrell and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and bolstered by the presence of youngsters Ishan Porel and Ravi Bishnoi.
Porel, who has been fairly consistent in domestic and India A cricket, played a key role in guiding Bengal to the final of the Ranji Trophy, and with coach Kumble showing confidence in him, he could be the trump card for the side.
READ | IPL 2020: Meet the backroom staff of the eight teams
It’s a similar story for India under-19 star Bishnoi. After being one of the most talked about spinners at the under-19 World Cup, the 2020 IPL season is Bishnoi’s opportunity to up the ante and learn a thing or two from his idol, Kumble.
However, with the tournament shifting to the United Arab Emirates, it needs to be seen how the franchise gets the combination right. But captain Rahul hopes that the side would ‘peak at the right time’.
The squad: K. L. Rahul (captain), Glenn Maxwell, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh, Sheldon Cottrell, Ishan Porel, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Arshdeep Singh, Hardus Viljoen, M. Ashwin, J. Suchith, Harpreet Brar, Darshan Nalkande, James Neesham, Chris Jordan, Krishnappa Gowtham, Deepak Hooda, Tajinder Singh Dhillon, Nicholas Pooran, Prabhsimran Singh.
Top three run-getters
Top three wicket-takers