Rahul leads a Punjab side that has the arsenal to win any battle, but it must seize the big moments more20 frequently
Kings XI Punjab enters the 2021 edition as Punjab Kings. Whether this rechristening brings a change in its fortunes remains to be seen as K. L. Rahul returns to lead a side whose performances so far have not matched the potential.
Runners-up in 2014 and semifinalists in the inaugural edition in 2008, Kings continue to search for a maiden title.
On paper, the team looks armed with the arsenal needed to win any battle. However, its consistent inconsistency has stood in the way of seizing the big moments.
The calming presence of Anil Kumble, Director of Cricket Operations, and assistant coach Andy Flower in the dugout should help keep the flamboyance of Chris Gayle or the emotions of Rahul in check.
Fielding coach Jonty Rhodes, in his second season with Kings, brings obvious value to the team.
Picking the batsmen in the playing XI should not be so difficult, with Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Gayle, Mandeep Singh easily forming the top-order. Sarfaraz Khan can follow to play a cameo.
All-rounders Moises Henriques, Jhye Richardson, Jalaj Saxena, Deepak Hooda and Fabian Allen bring variety to the attack that includes Riley Meredith, Chris Jordan and M. Ashwin.
The manner in which Kings went all out for Richardson in the recent auction, spending a whopping ₹14 crore (base price ₹1.5 crore) and adding his Australian compatriot Meredith for ₹8 crore (base price ₹40 lakh), reflects the team management’s thought-pattern.
Kumble clearly thinks quality pace will win the race on Indian pitches.
Last year, in the playing XI, Indians formed the backbone of the Kings attack, while the overseas recruits were mainly batsmen. This year, the line-up appears balanced, even without Glenn Maxwell.
Rahul, expected to open with Mayank, may share the wicketkeeping responsibilities with Nicholas Pooran. In 2020, the duo was part of the playing XI. This year, too, Pooran could be preferred over Gayle or Dawid Malan. In any case, Gayle may not be a choice for all the league matches.
“This year, Punjab Kings will bring in new energy to all of us and we start a new journey,” Kumble said.