Rebranding is an essential tool to bring about a change in fortunes. It worked for Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League. Most of its daredevilry began after being renamed. Punjab Kings dropped the ‘XI’ tag to underline the importance of one unit. The franchise will expect the magic to work in its favour in the 2021 edition.
Punjab failed to make the playoffs in 2020 but there was no dearth of intent. Skipper K. L. Rahul ended as the top scorer of the season with 670 runs including a hundred and five fifties. Nicholas Pooran, Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal were among the top 10 batters in terms of strike rate and the number of sixes hit.
The middle order remained a problem area as Karun Nair, Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan and Glenn Maxwell did not fire. The batting was heavily-reliant on the openers, Rahul and Mayank.
The bowlers erred in length and leaked runs in death overs.
Fast bowler Mohammed Shami and leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi were the silver linings. The seasoned quick finished the tournament with 20 wickets while the young wrist spinner picked up 12.
On most occasions, Punjab couldn’t keep the opposition quiet. It lost to Chennai Super Kings by 10 wickets after setting a target of 179. In Sharjah, the bowlers could not defend 223 against Rajasthan Royals; the game was over with three balls to spare.
Punjab Kings has found solutions to the existing problems by identifying expected game-changers at the auction. It picked up the ICC No. 1 T20I batsman Dawid Malan at ₹1.5 crore.
Uncapped talent M. Shahrukh Khan was bought for ₹5.25 crore as he fit the bill for a hard-hitter in the middle order. The right-hander, named after Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, has an intimidating presence in the middle. He was instrumental in his state Tamil Nadu’s triumph in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 competition.
Punjab Kings broke the bank to sign uncapped Australian fast bowler Riley Meredith for ₹8 crore. The lethal right-armer became the most expensive uncapped overseas player signed at an auction. He will join compatriot Jhye Richardson — bought for ₹14 crore — whose forte lies in swing and pace.
India international Mohammed Shami has recovered from the wrist injury. If available for selection in the first few games, he will be expected to lead the pace attack. He will also have a batch of young pacers — Ishan Porel, Darshan Nalkande and Arshdeep Singh — to mentor.
All-rounder Moises Henriques (₹4.20 crore) is a handy bowling option.
Pooran, Malan, Gayle and one between Meredith and Richardson are likely to be the four foreigners.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Prabhsimran Singh has been in fine touch in the domestic white-ball tournaments and could earn a place in the XI. Seamer Arshdeep, who provided crucial breakthroughs in the last edition, deserves a berth in the starting XI.
It will be challenging for Sarfaraz Khan to retain his spot as all-rounders Jalaj Saxena, who flaunts a decent economy of 6.84 in T20s, and Deepak Hooda will be in the reckoning.
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