Looks quite balanced

Mitchell Johnson... value for money.-AP

Kings XI Punjab has been one of the IPL’s subaltern teams since its inception but if there was a prize for performance at this year’s auction, Preity Zinta’s lot would win it without question. Guided by Sanjay Bangar, the assistant coach, Kings XI purchased the services of Mitchell Johnson — whom Mumbai Indians mysteriously passed up — and Glenn Maxwell on the first day. Johnson, Australia’s hero in the Ashes, would torment South Africa (where the IPL could possibly move this season) a day later in Centurion with his 150kmph thunderbolts. Indian pitches are generally less conducive to that sort of thing but the wicket at Mohali has been slightly compassionate towards pace bowlers.

George Bailey, the Australian T20 captain, and Shaun Marsh, a former player here, jumped aboard to augment the Aussie community. The dangerous David Miller was one of two retained players. In Manan Vohra, the other one held back from the auction, Gurkeerat Singh and Mandeep Singh, snapped up with the help of an RTM card, the team has three solid batsmen from Punjab. Sandeep Sharma, another returning player, Parvinder Awana and Rishi Dhawan — who was the highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy this season — are all effective medium-pacers. The left-armer Murali Kartik was picked up towards the end and he is the only experienced spinner in the ranks. The team has only one recognised wicket-keeper too, in Wriddhiman Saha.

One talking point from the auction was Kings XI’s purchase of Virender Sehwag, a player whose signature three years ago franchises would have scrambled for but who now finds himself out of form and out of demand. He is one candidate to be made captain but Bailey is also a strong contender. The latter’s inclusion, however, would make it hard to find a slot for Shaun Marsh or Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera, a fine all-rounder (presuming Maxwell, Johnson and Miller have to start each game).

“We have realised over the years that we need a balanced team,” the Kings XI owner Ness Wadia said. “We have seen money does not bring success. It is not all about buying the stars. It is about building the future.” The approach Wadia preached found expression in purchases like Cheteshwar Pujara and the Railways seamer Anureet Singh. Last season, Kings XI was perhaps over-reliant on Miller, Azhar Mahmood, and up to a point, Ryan Harris. This time, the squad wears a thoroughly balanced look owing to its strong contingent of domestic players. Kings XI could finally make the play-offs for the first time since the inaugural edition.

THE TEAM Players retained: David Miller, Manan Vohra.

Players bought: Mitchell Johnson (Rs. 6.5 crore), Glenn Maxwell (6), George Bailey (3.25), Virender Sehwag (3.20), Rishi Dhawan (3), Wriddhiman Saha (2.20), Shaun Marsh (2.20), Cheteshwar Pujara (1.90), Lakshmipathy Balaji (1.80), Beuran Hendricks (1.80), Thisara Perera (1.60), Gurkeerat Singh (1.30), Murali Kartik (1), Sandeep Sharma (Rs. 85 lakh), Mandeep Singh (80, RTM), Akshar Patel (75), Parvinder Awana (65, RTM), Shardul Thakur (20), Anureet Singh (20), Shivam Sharma (10), Karanveer Singh (10).

Shreedutta Chidananda