IPL 2021: New name, new season- Can Punjab Kings avoid the same old story in
13 seasons, 11 league-stage finishes, 2 playoffs appearances, 1 final appearance, and 0 titles. This is a quick summary of the league history of the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise from Punjab. The franchise is one of the three teams-- that will be taking part in the upcoming IPL season (IPL 2021)-- to have not won a single title yet.
They flatter to deceive and that's been the pattern of this side over the last few years now. They start off well, show a lot of promise with some clinical cricket only to see their campaign plummet to the bottom later. The side's always been star-studded and before the commencement of each season, they look like one of the strongest teams on paper. Yet, they fail to replicate that potential into reality.
This year, they enter the tournament with a new name- Punjab Kings. They also go into the tournament on the back of a successful IPL 2021 auction. They spent a total of ₹22 crore on two Australian quicks in Jhye Richardson (14 crores) and Riley Meredith (8 crores). Moreover, they secured the services of the best T20I batsman in the world currently, England's Dawid Malan, for just ₹1.5 crore. Absolute steal.
Last season, they realized that having a batting-heavy unit is not going to be enough in a tournament like the IPL if you don't have an equally potent bowling attack to back them. Hence, they bought players to fill certain gaps in the bowling department but their middle-order still looks fragile.
The question remains: Can the rechristened Punjab franchise turn this things around with some new names and renewed vigor?
Let's take a look at their chances in IPL 2021 through SWOT analysis.
Solid Top-order: KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, and Chris Gayle. If this was a tweet, it would definitely end with, "that's it, that's the tweet". Punjab Kings have three serious match-winners at the top. Captain Rahul won the Orange Cap last year by topping the run tally with 670 runs in 14 matches. His opening partner too had a good time. Mayank was the second-highest run-scorer for the franchise, smashing 424 runs in 11 matches. Both openers scored a century each. "Universe Boss", as Gayle is often called more colloquially, didn't start the tournament but made the most of his chances; 288 runs in seven matches. Hence, scoring runs, and lots of them were never really a problem with erstwhile Kings XI Punjab.
Missing Middle-order: On days Punjab's top-order failed to fire, the middle-order of the side just wasn't good enough to take on the responsibility. Except for Nicholas Pooran, who was PBKS' third-highest run-scorer with 353 runs in 14 matches, nobody else could really get going. Be it Glenn Maxwell (108 runs in the season), Jimmy Neesham (19), Deepak Hooda (101), or Sarfaraz Khan (33), the middle-order either lacked experienced or suffered from poor runs of the big stars. This season, too, they are likely to suffer in that area.
Yes, they have Fabian Allen now, who was bought for his base price of ₹75 lakh from Sunrisers Hyderabad, but the Windies player didn't get a single game last year and is actually yet to make his debut. Hence, it will be unfair to expect much from him and since a maximum of four overseas players are allowed in a playing XI, he may not get a lot of game time.
Australian quicks in Shami Army: The bowling unit of PBKS lacked experience last season. Mohammad Shami was the only experienced campaigner in the bowling attack that featured numerous young names like Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Murugan Ashwin, and Sheldon Cottrell. Shami was the best of a lot with 20 wickets, followed by Bishnoi and M. Ashwin with 12 and 10 wickets, respectively. However, this year, they have bolstered their pace attack with some prominent names in Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith. While Jhye has been a regular member of the Perth Scorcher in the Big Bash League-- pocketing 69 wickets and scoring 1496 runs in 53 matches, Meredith has been a prominent figure for the Hobart Hurricanes. He's taken 43 wickets in 34 BBL games. Both bowlers can bowl at express speed and are expected to provide the much-needed support.
Inconsistency: As we mentioned earlier, they tend to derail. The side lacks consistency and with a handful of inspiring performances will never prove to be sufficient. Moreover, they lack experience in the spin department as Bishnoi is only 14 matches old, while M. Ashwin has the experience of playing 31 matches.
Full squad of Punjab Kings for IPL 2021: KL Rahul (c/wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Mandeep Singh, Prabsimran Singh, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, Murugan Ashwin, Ravi Bishnoi, Harpreet Brar, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh, Ishan Porel, Darshan Nalkande, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Jhye Richardson, Shahrukh Khan, Riley Meredith, Moises Henriques, Jalaj Saxena, Utkarsh Singh, Fabian Allen, Saurabh Kumar.