The sense of positivity and hope that a complete revamp brings in teams, both performing and non-performing, doesn’t really apply to KXIP whose experiments have always ended in vain. However, their decision to retain only one player has opened them to endless possibilities ahead of the mega-auction.
Kings XI Punjab’s decision to have Axar Patel as their sole retention was surprising to many, after the terrific contribution of David Miller, Glenn Maxwell, and Shaun Marsh for the franchise over the years. It only points to the fact that the side is open to yet another reconstruction this year in hope of a better outcome.
A quick look to the only two times in IPL’s 11-year history that Punjab could break into the top four (2008 and 2014) would show the side’s ability to perform well under an effective leader. While it was an in-form Yuvraj Singh that led the side to the semis in the first season, a mercurial George Bailey led them all the way to the final six years later, before they lost to Kolkata Knight Riders.
Hence, the primary target for the KXIP management is pretty simple and predictable this year - find an exceptional captain. Apart from that, the team also faces an uphill task of assimilating a perfectly balanced side that has the needed IPL experience to compete.
Players Retained- Axar Patel
Funds Remaining- 67.5 crores
Shaun Marsh - Playing for Punjab since the very beginning of the tournament’s history, Marsh has been one of their most consistent players. He has scored 2477 runs in 71 matches at an average of 39.95, having 20 fifties and even a century to his name. Hence, if Punjab
Manan Vohra - Getting an uncapped player in the three available right to match cards is mandatory and Punjab are expected to go with the local favourite. Playing in IPL for the last five years Vohra has had a significant presence in the Punjab squad, despite being a non-regular. He has amassed 957 runs in 45 matches at an average of 24.53 and knows the art of dictating the tempo of the game from the middle order. With his base price less than a crore, the auction could see that rise up to 3-4 crore, which Punjab should meet easily.
David Miller - The decision to choose between David Miller and Glenn Maxwell is not as difficult as it seems, especially after the Australian all-rounder had a light fall-out with the management last season. The choice was further aided by Maxwell’s recent struggles to maintain a place on the international level. Despite having two quiet seasons in 2016 and 2017, Miller’s pinch-hitting ability is an asset every team would desire and especially now with KXIP scheduled to play three of their games at the small Holkar stadium. Miller averages 35.52 in IPL and was also Punjab’s top scorer in 2015. With a base price of 1.5 crores, the South Africa hard-hitter could see his price reach 7 crores, given other franchise’s willingness to land him too. However, KXIP will have the first call with their RTM card.
Karun Nair - Middle-order was one of the biggest conundrums for Punjab last season as they kept reshuffling the likes of Eoin Morgan, David Miller, Wriddhiman Saha, Marcus Stoinis, and Glenn Maxwell. While a good display there almost always brought them victory, it was a rare occurrence. It is high time that they get a fixed middle order with a balance of experience, both domestic and international. Nair has been a regular in IPL since 2014 and has amassed 1158 runs in 55 matches. Coming down in the order, he gets to play lesser deliveries in most games, but has still averaged 25.17 so far. With a base price of less than a crore, the 27-year-old could up to 4 crores, especially after his recent heroics in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy where he has scored two centuries for Tamil Nadu so far.
Manish Pandey - The KKR middle order batsman has become one of the hottest prospects in IPL over the last few years. His ability to play strokes with immaculate timing over power hitting got him a break in the national team and he has soon become a potential No. 4 option for India ahead of the 2019 World Cup. An experienced campaigner he has scored 2215 runs in IPL so far, scoring at an average of 28.39 from the third down. He has nine fifties and a ton in the tournament so far and could prove to be a match-winner for any side. Having a base price of 1 crore we expect his worth to go around 6 crores in the auction although KKR
Robin Uthappa (wk) - Wriddhiman Saha is highly unlikely to be
Ben Stokes - Replacing a mega star like Glenn Maxwell won’t be easy by any stretch for Punjab and judging by the looks of the market, it won’t be cheap either. The mega-auction will be flooded by star all-rounders with the likes of Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Ben Stokes all going under the hammer. And Stokes would unquestionably be the best option of the lot, given his efficacy with both the bat and ball. Making his debut with Rising Pune Supergiant last season, Stokes scored 316 runs and claimed 12 wickets and will be one of the biggest buys. Punjab getting Stokes will tilt the title-contenders tag in their favour for sure, and it could cost them somewhere in the region of 12 crores, too.
Ravichandran Ashwin - Apart from the vast experience that Ashwin brings to the table, the spinner could also be the master strategist and leader that Punjab desperately needs. The bowler from Tamil Nadu has proved his commitment to whichever side he has played for and his clever variations with the ball still go unanswerable most of the times. He has claimed 100 wickets in 111 IPL matches so
Trent Boult - Punjab have lacked raw pace last season with Mohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma and Sandeep Sharma leading their attack. Though the trio kept their economy rate consistently decent, it blunted their threat during the death overs especially. They are not expected to make the same mistake this time and the Kiwi pacer could be a good option. Boult has never been a regular for any side in his last three years in IPL as he could manage just 14 matches and 15 wickets to his name. He was brilliant in limited-overs series in India last year where he claimed nine wickets in three ODIs and two T20Is. With his base price fixed at 1.5 crores, Boult is expected to reach as high as 9
Sandeep Sharma- Looking for a partner for Boult will surely lead the management to this local speedster. The 25-year-old has been one of the most consistent performers in the tournament, taking 71 wickets in 56 matches at an economy rate of 7.77 in the last five seasons. He ended last season as Punjab’s top wicket-taker claiming 15 wickets after 2014 when he took 18 wickets. With his base price lesser than a crore, his price isn’t expected to go above 5 crores in the mega-auction.
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