Team: Kings XI Punjab
Captain: Ravichandran Ashwin
Coach: Virender Sehwag
Best Performance: Runners-up in IPL 2014
So, the clock is ticking away for the IPL 2018 to start and as we enter the final week in the build-up to the marquee tournament, today let us subtly analyze one of the enigmatic franchise in the history of the tournament the Kings XI Punjab.
They started well in 2008 where they made it into the top four and then another brilliant one in 2014, where they entered the finals for the very first time under George Bailey's leadership, with the likes of Miller, Maxwell, and Saha all coming to the fore. But, just as it seemed the franchise had finally settled itself, three unsuccessful stints followed in 2015, 2016 and 2017, forcing the team owners to retain just Axar Patel and start again with a clean slate.
Also Read: Predicting RCB starting XI
On that note, here's a look at the strengths and weakness that KXIP have at their disposal going in to the 2018 edition of the IPL:
#1 A sea of opening-pair combinations
Amongst the sea of changes that KXIP has made to their squad, one thing that immediately demands attention is the sea of opening-pair combinations that they have at their disposal.
KXIP has perennialy struggled with opening combinations over the years but this season they have multiple options in Chris Gayle, KL Rahul, Aaron Finch, Karun Nair and the wonder boy of the 2017-18 domestic season Mayank Agarwal.
#2 A strong Indian Core
If you look around at the most successful franchises over the ten years of the IPL, amongst the plethora of different reasons of their success, one common denmionator would be the presence and the consistent performances of local Indian players. It is indeed a basic tenet on which the success of IPL franchise hinges, and no one would acknowledge that better than Kings XI Punjab.
Over the years, Punjab has struggled due to lack of strong Indian core and it was evident from their strategy in the auctions. In Nair, Rahul, Agarwal, Manoj Tiwary and Axar Patel (the only player to be retained by the franchise), the Kings have managed to assemble an enviable core of local Indian players and it might just prove to be fillip that propels the team to glory this time around.
#3 A Powerful Middle-Order
Apart from a sea of options at the top of the order, KXIP boasts of a powerful middle-order. In Aaron Finch, Yuvraj Singh, David Miller and all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, Punjab has some of the breathtaking power hitters in the game currently.
If the opening combination can give the Kings a steady start at the top then the shenanigans of the middle-order can take over, making their batting line-up a nightmare for the opposition bowlers.
Also Read: Fascinating stories of IPL newbies
#1 Lack of Wicket-keeping options
A wicket-keeper's role assumes paramount importance as the format of the games gets shorter.
This is where the Kings XI Punjab seem to have missed a point. They have just two keeping options in Aksdeep Nath and KL Rahul.
While Akshdeep is a specialized keeper-batsman, he has not yet set the stage on fire with his glove work. On the other side of the spectrum is KL Rahul, who has been guilty of a lapses while keeping for the RCB in the past.
The absence of a proven glovesman in a crunch the may turn out to be the nemesis of KXIP as the tournament goes deep.
#2 Lack of potency in the Pace attack
While KXIP does boast of Andrew Tye, one of the best T20 death bowlers going around, they lack depth when it comes to Indian fast bowling stocks.
While Left-arm fast bowler Barinder Iran has been inconsistent and plagued with injuries at the same time, it remains to be seen whether Mohit Sharma, with all his experience at his disposal, can put his hands up as the senior fast bowler.
The way Sharma and Iran fare, will probably define the journey of KXIP in IPL 2018.
#3 Enigmatic Superstars
In Yuvraj Singh and Chris Gayle, the Kings XI Punjab boasts of two perennial legends of T20 cricket. Gayle (first cricketer to score a T20I hundred) and Yuvraj (six 6s against England in WT20 2007) were the ones who revolutionized T20 cricket when the format was taking its baby steps back in 2007.
But with age, the form of both cricketers has been at best inconsistent. While Gayle had an indifferent World Cup Qualifiers and almost missed out on this year's IPL before Punjab placed a late bid for him, Yuvraj has also found himself out of national favour due to poor fitness and inconsistent form.
While the two Southpaws can still be a match-winners on their day, the KXIP would be hoping thatt ‘those days' are not few and far between.
Squad: R Ashwin (C), Axar Patel, Yuvraj Singh, Karun Nair, KL Rahul, Gayle, Miller, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Manoj Tiwary, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb Zadran, Barinder Sran, Andrew Tye, Akshdeep Nath, Dwarshuis, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar, Manzoor Darr
Probable XI: Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (WK), Aaron Finch, Yuvraj Singh, David Miller, Marcus Stoinis, R.Ashwin (C), Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma, Andrew Tye