The typical barbershop debate about the IPL usually revolves around Chennai, Mumbai, and Kolkata for obvious reasons since the trio has won seven of the 10 editions of the league. On the other end of the spectrum, there are constant teams that dominate the chatter for who the worst ever side is.
The debate is quite simple and has two main candidates – Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab. While the former has made it to the playoffs thrice, the latter boasts of making it all the way to the finals on one occasion. With Delhi making a brand new team every few years, they have not really sizzled. Punjab went down a more tried and tested method of sticking by a core of players. The problem – they bet on the wrong players. Great players don’t make a great team, just look at RCB. On paper, the Bangalore franchise should have won at least five Championships but as things stand they have ZERO.
Punjab handed the keys of the castle to Glenn Maxwell and David Miller – the duo who guided the franchise to a final in 2014. There is no denying that the 2014 team could be one of the best that the IPL has ever seen with talent in every department. But since then the franchise has not been able to finish above the sixth place in any of the following seasons. Even in the NBA, when a Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal-led Lakers couldn’t win a Championship, they had to be broken up (although they did eventually win a title when the pressure was on). That is just the nature of the sport. Emotion cannot play a part in your decision-making abilities and that appears to be the biggest challenge that the Kings now face ahead of the mega-auction. It’s high time that the Kings go back to the drawing board and the think tank zero in on the players they can acquire in the auction to get a team that can actually compete for the biggest prize in franchise-based T20 cricket.
Having said that, they still have players on their team that can help them achieve the ultimate goal. With the likes of Hashim Amla, Miller, Saha, Axar, Maxwell, Murali Vijay among others in their squad, they still have the option of retaining some of these stars. But is even one of the aforementioned players worth 15 crores – HELL NO. Considering the amount of talent that will seep out of the other franchises, Kings will do well to just buy directly from the market and build a brand new team. No player on their team has earned the right to be retained in the last few years and it would set the franchise back half a decade if they do decide to stick with some of these players for the next season and pay them the same amount as a Virat Kohli or AB de Villiers.
The Right to Match (RTM), though, is a completely different scenario. They don’t have to enter the auction with a completely clean slate. The foreign players might not command a value of over 10 crores but if they can retain a couple through the RTM option, it might not be the worst idea in the world. Amla, who went unsold in the auction last year, was signed up later and it turned out to be one of the best signings of the season as the South African scored at an average of 60 with two centuries. He could be a very handy player if they can sign a hard hitter alongside him to open the innings. The Proteas star is no scrub in terms of scoring at pace as well – he had a strike rate of 145.83 last season.
The second choice has to be Axar, who has arguably been their best bowler in the last few years and is not too bad with the bat as well. In fact, the all-rounder was promoted up the order, to No. 3, above both Miller and Maxwell on multiple occasions last season. The final choice has to be that of David Miller. He might not be the same player that could blitz any bowler in the world on any surface. After the disaster that was the back to back series against Sri Lanka and England, the hard hitter scored the fastest ever century in T20I cricket against Bangladesh, showing signs of a player that many had written off. Maxwell has struggled in the Australian set-up and the rise of Marcus Stoinis has seen his days in the national camp numbered which gives the South African a slight edge over the “Big Show”.
Logic dictates that Punjab should not retain any of their players and save a huge chunk of their transfer kitty for the actual auction. But if you look at the decisions that they have made in the past, there is absolutely no fan who would be surprised if they fill all five spots available and slump to an underwhelming finish yet again.
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