There is something uncanny about Punjab Kings. No matter how talented the side is, an Indian Premier League title has remained out of its reach across two generations of players in the history of the tournament.

For the past three seasons, the focus has been on K. L. Rahul — the captain, wicketkeeper and the top batsman of the side. If he is among the runs, the side wins or else it slips. His Karnataka team-mate Mayank Agarwal has added a bit of firepower at the top of the order, but even then, the entire batting department revolves around Rahul.

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Punjab has a mountain to climb to earn a spot in the playoffs. The new hirings — Adil Rashid for Jhye Richardson and Nathan Ellis for Riley Meredith — may change the side’s fortunes. The net run rate of -0.368 remains a concern.

India international Mohammed Shami, the leader of the pace attack, will be a crucial player in the remaining games, along with youngster Arshdeep Singh.

Left-arm seamer Arshdeep has been an economical bowler since IPL 2020. He can also turn games by picking up crucial wickets. In the high-scoring match against Rajasthan Royals in Mumbai, Arshdeep returned 3/35; the effort included the big scalp of Sanju Samson, who almost ran away with the game with a brilliant 119 off 63 balls. Shami had dismissed big man Ben Stokes for a duck in the match.

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Punjab should use leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi's services a bit more in the second half of the tournament. The 21-year-old from Rajasthan made his debut in the 2020 edition in the UAE, where he picked up 12 wickets in 14 outings. He has featured in only four games in 2021. “It feels nice to be back in Dubai. It doesn’t seem like it has been a year since we last came here. Conditions here will help spinners like Adil Rashid and me. These wickets are very good for spinners.

“In the first half, we could win only three out of our eight games, but now with this gap in the middle, I believe, will be very helpful for the team. Back then, the momentum wasn’t on our side, but now everybody is starting afresh, and hopefully this fresh start can help us win and qualify for the playoffs,” Bishnoi was quoted as saying by Punjab Kings.