With a new coaching staff and a new captain in charge, Kings XI Punjab boast an impressive squad. That said, this is not the first time they’ve had a strong team on paper. For years, KXIP’s biggest drawback has been their inconsistency. They start well but fall way behind the pecking order, something that happened last year. After a promising start in the first-half, it could well have been KXIP’s season but a disastrous second half that saw them win just one match out of seven, ensured a sixth-place finish.
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Well, there is nothing quite like a fresh start. With Anil Kumble as head coach and KL Rahul as captain, KXIP can break that pattern which sees them slip after a promising start. As they start their IPL 2020 campaign against Delhi Capitals on Sunday, here’s a look at their possible team combination.
1 KL Rahul
KXIP should look no further than KL Rahul for inspiration. In the last two seasons of the IPL, a red-hot Rahul burned up the charts with 659 in 2018 and 493 runs in 2019 respectively. Besides, Rahul would draw confidence from the fact that he was in tremendous form during India’s tour of New Zealand earlier this year. A third good IPL season on the trot would not only do a world of good to him but shoot his confidence ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup.
2 Chris Gayle
The Universe Boss, Chris Gayle has two huge IPL records to his name – that of most sixes (326 in 124 innings) and the maximum centuries (6). Despite switching ships from RCB to Kings XI Punjab, the big-hitting Jamaican continued his love affair with the IPL, piling up 368 and 490 runs respectively in the previous two seasons. At 40, Gayle may not be the fittest or the most agile player around, but the power in those muscles refused to die down. Having last played cricket in January, expect Gayle to explode.
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3 Mayank Agarwal
Mayank Agarwal has had a dream start to his Test career but is yet to feature in a T20I for India. He did not have the worst of IPL 2019 but he’d have wanted to do a bit more than his effort of 332 runs from 13 matches. At No. 3, Agarwal could be the rock for KXIP and if he decides to go big, he is capable of clearing the grounds of the UAE.
4 Sarfaraz Khan
The youngster, Sarfaraz Khan seems an ideal fit for the No. 4 slot. His tendency to try out a non-textbook shot out of the blue can throw the bowler off-guard and his lofty shots pack a punch. Sarfaraz began last year with promise scoring a half-century but faded as the season progressed. Sarfaraz started the year with a triple century and double ton in Ranji Trophy and will be eager to show what he’s capable of in the 20-over format.
5 Nicholas Pooran
Nicholas Pooran is a promising youngster from West Indies, who has been deemed the next big thing in Windies cricket by none other than Gayle. Infact, former India opening batsman Gautam Gambhir has mentioned him in the same sentence as AB de Villiers, believing he is capable of playing all types of shots. With the batsman likely to come in at No. 5, we’ll find out whether Gambhir’s prediction was right.
6 Krishnappa Gowtham/Deepak Hooda
The only toss up in the team seems to be between Krishnappa Gowtham and Deepak Hooda. While Gowtham, being a bowling all-rounder, offers an extra edge in the spin department, with Murugan Ashwin and Mujeeb Ur Rahman likely being two frontline spinners, KXIP might be tempted to play a batsman extra in Hooda.
7 Murugan Ashwin
Training with his role model Kumble, Murugan Ashwin will be keen to forget the season that was 2019 where he picked five wickets from 10 matches and seek a fresh start. Before this, Ashwin played for Rising Pune Supergiant, Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers before moving to KXIP. Ashwin’s leg-spin coupled with variety in his bowling has troubled the best batsmen in the past and he is likely to pull out all the stops to ensure the buck doesn’t stop.
8 Mohammed Shami
With 42 wickets, Mohammed Shami ended 2019 as its leading wicket-taker. With improved fitness and agility, Shami has turned a new leaf and he will shepherd the promising bowling unit of KXIP.
9 Ishan Porel
Ishan Porel, 22, can generate pace up to the mid 140 mark. Having first made headlines during the 2018 Under 19 World Cup which India won, Porel has since become an integral part of the Bengal cricket team, helping them reach the final of the 2020-21 Ranji Trophy season. With Shami and Porel can make for an interesting fast bowler opening pair to watch.
10 Mujeeb Ur Rahman
The left-arm spinner has used his bag of trickery to dismiss some of the biggest names, including MS Dhoni. Last season, he played just five matches and picked up three wickets. This time around, KXIP would want to use him more given the spin-friendly surfaces of the UAE. He and Ashwin, bowling in tandem can stifle the run flow, even if not among wickets.
11 Sheldon Cottrell
Sheldon Cottrell’s 12 wickets was the most by a West Indies bowler in the tournament and his pace added to his value as Kings XI Punjab paid Rs 8.5 crore, one of the highest buys in the last players’ auction. With Chris Jordan and Shami in KXIP, jockeying for a place in the playing eleven will be intense but KXIP will likely give a chance to the WI quick given his pace and the form he was in prior to the break.