Renowned expert Aakash Chopra named his starting XI for Punjab Kings and, interestingly, chose Chris Gayle as KL Rahul’s opening partner, demoting the hard-hitting Mayank Agarwal to No.3. Chopra included the Aussie duo of Moises Henriques and Jhye Richardson, but omitted Riley Meredith.
Punjab Kings (previously Kings XI Punjab) endured yet another frustrating season in IPL 2020 as they finished sixth, failing to qualify for the playoffs for a fifth straight year. But while they undoubtedly were below-par in most areas, one of the rare few shining lights for the side was how well the opening duo of Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul fared. The two highest run-getters for the side last season, Rahul and Agarwal were the most successful opening combo in the IPL last season and stitched more hundred-run stands than any other pair in the competition. The duo shared impeccable chemistry, to the extent that Chris Gayle - arguably the greatest opener in T20 history - was demoted to No.3 in order to not break up the pair.
But despite their superhuman effort as a pair in IPL 2020, renowned expert Aakash Chopra has split up the duo in his PBKS starting XI for the 2021 edition. Picking Punjab’s starting XI in a video in his YouTube channel, Chopra said that he’d pick Gayle and Rahul as his openers, dropping Agarwal to No3, while deploying the trio of Nicholas Pooran, Deepak Hooda and Moises Henriques in the middle-order.
"I will be going with KL Rahul and Gayle as the openers, Mayank Agarwal at No.3, Pooran at No.4, Hooda at No.5, and Moises Henriques at No.6. You should please play Henriques as he will add that balance to your side," Chopra said in a video uploaded on his Youtube channel, reported Hindustan Times.
Chopra then asserted that he would like to see one of Shahrukh Khan, Mandeep Singh or Sarfaraz Khan bat at No.7. This, according to him, will not only add depth but give immense freedom to the batters up top.
"At No.7, you can have anyone. You can play Shahrukh, Mandeep, or Sarfaraz - whoever you play it won't make any difference. But if you have this kind of batting, you can play with a lot of freedom, something that they should do this season,” Chopra said.
Interestingly, however, the former Indian opener, while picking Punjab’s bowling attack, left out the Tasmanian tearaway Riley Meredith. Chopra picked Ashwin, Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, and Jhye Richardson as his four bowlers and said that the only other alternative he sees is potentially bringing left-armer Arshdeep into the side. Meredith, notably, was purchased for INR 8.00 crore by the Kings, and, two months ago, the right-armer impressed in his T20I debut series against New Zealand.
"Then four bowlers - Ashwin, Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, and Jhye Richardson. This will be my team, if you feel that you need to play one less spinner, you have Arshdeep as an option available," said Chopra.
Aakash Chopra’s Punjab Kings starting XI
KL Rahul (c and wk), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran, Deepak Hooda, Moises Henriques, Shahrukh Khan/Mandeep Singh/Sarafaz Ahmed, Ravi Bishnoi, Murugan Ashwin, Jhye Richardson, Mohammed Shami