We’re nearing the end of the decade and well, Kings XI Punjab have one final chance to nail a pre-IPL auction. The spectacle come December 19 might very well decide their fate heading into IPL 2020 and we, here at SportsCafe, have assimilated their squad and come up with potential auction picks.
Kings XI Punjab are those intelligent kids in school who have it in them to do well, should most definitely be doing well, but somehow always end up getting unsatisfactory grades. Sometimes, they’ve entered the exam hall having studied everything, even jotted down every answer correctly but then have abruptly gone blank after a point to end up failing the test. They are like a newly-bought highly-configured laptop that throws a bluescreen error and shuts down bluntly; you know it shouldn’t be happening, but it has happened and you’re just standing there having no idea why it crashed.
Their stubbornness to experiment and change, too, in the past, has meant that the results of some of their seasons have been a foregone conclusion, but having *finally* let go of David Miller and Andrew Tye, traded their skipper Ravi Ashwin and having appointed Anil Kumble as the head coach, there just might be some ray of hope for "the Lions" heading into the new season. All will, however, depend on how the auction unfolds and boy do they have some gaping holes that need filling. But on the flip side, with a staggering Rs 42.70 Crore left in their kitty - the highest of any team - they can afford anyone and everyone. So let us dive into their squad and see what they can actually do heading into this year’s extravaganza.
The Missing Links
Having retained a vast majority of their top-order batters, Punjab are all but sorted on that front but are considerably short when it comes to pace bowling. Having released Tye, Mohammad Shami - who, with all due respect, is not a great T20 bowler by any means - is their only recognized top quality pacer, so they would definitely need to add one, if not two, world-class pacers, with the emphasis being on getting an overseas quick. The lack of experience in their middle-order, too, hurt them big time last season and having released Miller, it would be pivotal for them to rope in an experienced quality middle-order batter. Whilst getting an all-rounder will not be on top of their shopping list, with newcomer Krishnappa Gowtham being the only all-rounder in the side right now, there might be a need to acquire a couple of dynamic cricketers as well.
The Dream Signing(s) - Pat Cummins and/or Eoin Morgan
Andrew Tye, no doubt, did a commendable job for the Lions but in all fairness, Punjab have not had that out-and-out world-class striker bowler spearheading their attack since Mitchell Johnson in 2016. And this has hurt them big time. The fact that pace bowling has been their Achilles Heel is indisputable and hence to stand any chance of making inroads in IPL 2020, they would have no option but to splash the cash on a big name. We looked at the market, and it happens to be that Pat Cummins is on the list. Now, you might think of Cummins primarily as a Test bowler, but his T20I record - 32 wickets in 25 games at an ER of 6.78 - speaks otherwise and having had prior IPL experience - having played for Kolkata and Delhi - Cummins might just turn out to be the key to break KXIP’s IPL duck.
On the contrary, it might be wiser for them to instead pursue English skipper Eoin Morgan, who’s also enrolled himself in the auction. Now, we’ve already established why they’re in dire need of a good middle-order batter, but remember, having released Ashwin, KXIP are also in search of a leader and buying Morgan would be a ‘two birds in stone’ move. Having previously played for KXIP, Morgan would literally fit right into the system.
But “THE DREAM” scenario for Punjab would be to land the coups of both Cummins AND Morgan and why not? After all, heading into the auction, they have the largest kitty of all the teams.
The Realistic Signings - Chris Morris (or) Carlos Brathwaite (or) Jaydev Unadkat
Historically, Punjab have seldom gone for top names when it comes to pacers; in the past few seasons, they’ve signed Andrew Tye, Kyle Abbott, Hardus Viljoen, Beuran Hendricks, Ben Dwarshuis and so on. And whilst reputation-wise both Chris Morris and Carlos Brathwaite might be a tier ahead of the aforementioned bowlers, they are not quite your ‘top bowlers’ but they still do serve a great purpose. Both can operate both upfront and at the death as we’ve seen in the past, both pack a punch with the bat. They will borderline tick the all-rounder box and definitely check the ‘bowler’ box, so it won’t be a surprise to see KXIP go for the duo. Unadkat, on the other hand, being a left-arm bowler, will add a whole new dimension to their attack and the experience he brings to the table would just be invaluable. Oh, you think he would be expensive? Let us remind you that Punjab spent 8.4 crores on Varun Chakravarthy last season.
The Wildcard - Glenn Maxwell
Say what you want about Glenn Maxwell’s performance in his last few seasons in the IPL, but every single time he walked in to bat, there was that fear factor, or that element of unpredictability, which kept the opposition on their toes. And one thing that Punjab have completely lost over the course of the last 2-3 seasons is that x-factor; they’ve hardly been respected. Re-signing Maxwell would be a completely out-of-the-box move but without a doubt one that would restore fear in the minds of their opponents. Balance wise, it might not make sense, but with Maxwell arguably in the form of his life in T20s, holy cow wouldn’t it make Punjab’s batting formidable with Rahul, Gayle and Pooran in the mix.
SportsCafe Suggests - Nathan Coulter-Nile and Colin de Grandhomme
Royal Challengers Bangalore might have just committed a heinous crime by releasing BOTH Coulter-Nile and de Grandhomme but as long as KXIP don’t capitalize on RCB’s blunder, that’s irrelevant. A fit and firing Coulter-Nile is as good as any pacer in the league, and his numbers - 36 wickets in 26 IPL games at an ER of 7.66 - prove the same. For both Delhi and Kolkata, Coulter-Nile did an impeccable job in both the powerplay and death overs and at this point in time, this Punjab team is crying out loud for someone like an NCN.
On the other hand, de Grandhomme - who can be both a floater and a finisher and chip in with the ball in helpful conditions - would complete the XI due to his sheer versatility, especially with K Gowtham set to feature in the team. Punjab - with Rahul, Agarwal, Gayle and Sarfaraz - have already loaded their team up with ex-RCBians, but should they manage to land it, the double coup of NCN & CDG might just turn out to be their best acquisition from the Southern part of the country.
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