Simply because of the way in which they went about their business in the last edition of IPL, every neutral supported Kings XI Punjab in the final match of IPL 7. Their Australian captain Glenn Maxwell devised an aggressive brand of cricket that saw them post gargantuan totals with the help of some breathtaking power hitting by Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and Virender Sehwag, which made them one of the most exciting teams to watch in the tournament.
Their campaign was the sort of story that made people sit up and take notice of the underdogs who came from nowhere and shook up the established order int he IPL, much like Rajasthan Royals in the very first edition of the IPL. This year too they have shopped frugally in the auctions and have tried to plug some of the gaps in the squad however will that be enough to do better than last year?
George Bailey (c), Anureet Singh. Parvinder Awana, Rishi Dhawan, Yogesh Golwalkar, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Beuran Hendricks, Mitchell Johnson, Karanveer Singh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Nikhil Naik, Axar Patel, Thisara Perera, Wriddhiman Saha, Sandeep Sharma, Virender Sehwag, Shivam Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Murali Vijay, Manan Vohra.
As always the vast array of free scoring power hitting batsmen in the batting line up is something that sets Kings XI apart from many of the other teams that are going to be on show in the IPL. Although Virender Sehwag is not the batsman he once was he showed last year that he can still do enough damage if he is in the mood when he carted the bowlers to all parts of the ground en route to a stunning century in the qualifier against Chennai Super Kings last time round. So, the top order still poses the threat even though some might think that Sehwag is past it and with the addition of Murali Vijay the opening combination looks even more solid as he cannot only negotiate the early burst from the faster bowlers or top class spinners for that matter but he can also revel in scoring quick fire runs once set.
However, the batsmen that follow and the strength in-depth in the batting line up are what make them such a dangerous side. Even someone like Mitchell Johnson can cart a few boundaries towards the end of an innings and the power hitting of Maxwell, Miler and captain George Bailey is something that all teams would be wary of. In the midst of these stalwarts, Kings XI also have the services of wicket keeper bat Wriddhiman Saha and young stroke maker Manan Vohra who would also add that much more bite to the batting line up. The batting is well and truly their strength as they showed last season.
A team that reached the final of the event is unlikely to have many weaknesses but in case of the Kings XI Punjab side that is not actually the case and in this regard it must be said that it is their bowling that poses the biggest threat to their own chances in the tournament. They failed to defend 199 in the final against KKR last time round and in the qualifier CSK were on course to chase down their imposing total of 226 till Suresh Raina was run out after taking his team to 100 in 6 overs. So, those two games give us a clear indication that the Kings XI are a team that can score heavily due to the presence of their explosive batsmen but can do very little if their bowlers are attacked.
The bowling attack that is fronted by Awana and Sandeep Sharma is always going to be hit for runs by quality batting sides in the IPL which is why even a bowler like Johnson is not much of a danger, since batsmen can get away without taking many risks against him. Even in this year’s auctions they did not buy any bowler and failed to reinforce their inexperienced bowling line up. Will it come back to bite them? Time will tell.
Key Players: –
New recruit Murali Vijay has been in fine form for more than 2 seasons but even then he has not been able to pin down a place for himself in the Indian team and his indifferent IPL form has also been a cause for concern, which is why he is now in his third franchise in as many years. Vijay however provides the much needed solidity and aggression at the top of the order that most teams would want. He is an underrated player and would be vital to the flying starts that Kings XI would hope for. Additionally, the fact that there is no guarantee on what Sehwag might do, Vijay would have to shoulder the responsibility of the opening blitz. Needless to say, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and George Bailey will continue to be the backbone of the batting line up with their power packed hitting that would go a long way in winning games for Kings XI.
However, Axar Patel and Mitchell Johnson would be far more vital in the larger scheme of things since they would have to shoulder the burden of an inexperienced and often ineffective bowling attack that can wilt under pressure. If these two can deliver under pressure then Kings XI would be favorites to win plenty of close games.
X- Factor: –
Wriddhiman Saha, whose floating role in the batting order would be of immense value to George Bailey and knowing his captaincy he would be used in the best possible way at different junctures of the tournament.
By: Soham Samaddar