IPL 2021 preview: Will a new-look Punjab Kings finally overcome title drought?
Punjab Kings is one of the teams in the Indian Premier League to have never won the title to date. It did finish as the runner-up in 2014. It was previously known as Kings XI Punjab before undergoing a name change ahead of the upcoming season, while KL Rahul would lead it.
The 2021 Indian Premier League would once again give the sides afresh chance at glory. While the top teams would always remain the favourites, the minnows cannot be ruled out either, especially in Twenty20 cricket, which happens to be anybody's game on any given day or season.
Punjab Kings remains one such team to have not won the title to date, despite finishing as runner-up in 2014. Since it has not really been a title-contender in the tournament, it is often referred to as a minnow. However, it does possess power guns that are capable of steering the side to its maiden title. As it gears up for the upcoming season, we present its preview for the same.
The squad is evenly balanced in all departments, 16 each, to be precise. Also, it is evenly balanced in terms of capped and uncapped talent, making it at par with Kolkata Knight Riders. However, its composition of having a packed all-round department, with as many as eight recruits, indeed makes it an attractive force to reckon with this season.
Team strengths and weaknesses
Although the squad is evenly balanced, its bowling is tide strong, owing to the possession of the most capped players in this department. While Moises Henriques and Mohammed Shami are the big names in this department, there are other capped talents as well, who might not be big T20 players but do have the ammunition to make an effect.
The same can be said for its batting, which bolsters Chris Gayle, Dawid Malan, Mayank Agarwal, K. L. Rahul and Nicholas Pooran. However, its eight-man all-around department gives a heavy strength to the side and can bat deep, besides giving bowling options to Rahul aplenty.
Nonetheless, its spin department lacks enough firepower, with Fabian Allen being the only capped player in the department. The other seven spinners happen to be uncapped and need some regular exposures to stand a chance to deliver.
Players to watch out
Gayle: The 'Universe Boss' from Jamaica is undoubtedly the greatest T20 player ever and is an IPL legend. While his only drawback is to have never won the title, it would have a big responsibility to ensure that he steers his side to a title-winning performance with his bat, even if it means winning it at the twilight phase of his career.
Malan: The English top-order batsman was in an explosive form in the just-concluded T20Is against India. Thus, he would indeed be looking to continue with the same momentum in the IPL this season, as he could well turn out to be one of the top run-scorers this season and the Most Valuable Player of the competition.
Rahul: The skipper and the Indian wicketkeeper-opening batsman ruled the tournament last season with flawless batting performance. Although he hasn't been able to fire regularly for India of late, the IPL would be the perfect platform for him to get into the rhythm again and prepare himself for the ICC World T20 2021 set to be held in India.
Shami: The Indian seamer has been out of action for around three months owing to a wrist injury. Now, that he has been cleared to go, it definitely means a tough time for the batsmen, who could well struggle with his prolific seam movements, as he has been effective with the same across formats. He could well play a definite role in PK's success this season.
IPL 2021 prediction
Going by the analysis above, PK has the firepower to lead itself to its maiden title glory. However, inconsistency has been its issue for far too long. Also, with the squad composition looking slightly confusing, it is unclear which department is precisely looking to make a definite impact.
While it is good that it is an evenly balanced side on all fronts, lack of enough capped players might lead to its demise again. However, since it has majorly focussed on acquiring all-round talents, it will have a deep strength in the playing XI, a similar factor that allowed KKR to win the title on two occasions. Maybe, Preity Zinta is really learning from Shah Rukh Khan. The Veer-Zaara connection is still alive to date, it seems.
PK squad for IPL 2021
Batsmen: Chris Gayle, Dawid Malan, Mayank Agarwal, Mandeep Singh and Sarfaraz Khan.
All-rounders: Jalaj Saxena, Moises Henriques, Saurabh Kumar, Deepak Hooda, Fabian Allen, Shahrukh Khan, Harpreet Brar and Jhye Richardson.
Wicketkeepers: KL Rahul, Nicholas Pooran and Prabhsimran Singh.
Spinners: Murugan Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi.
Pacers: Chris Jordan, Mohammed Shami, Riley Meredith, Ishan Porel, Darshan Nalkande and Arshdeep Singh.