After the fraternity unanimously agreed that Kings XI, last year, had emerged as the undisputed winner in the auction, it took the Lions all of 7 matches to go back to their we’re-just-here-to-fill-the-numbers self. For the 13th season running, they won hearts, and not cricket matches.
It has honestly come to the point where it really doesn’t matter what Kings XI Punjab do in the auction. Regardless of whether they spend 50 crore or 50,000 bucks, regardless of whether they assemble a good or a bad team, the upshot seems to be one and the same: elimination from the group stages. Despite boasting their most balanced - and experienced - team in six years, KXIP lingered at the bottom of the table for 80% of the season, before putting up a ‘too little, too late’ surge right at the very end to salvage pride, win and break hearts. You can call devising auction strategies for the side as a waste of time, but, unfortunately, what has to be done needs to be done.
Glenn Maxwell (10.75 crore): The suggested release of Maxwell is as much down to his price as it is to his performance. Averaging 15.42 and striking at 101.88 is reason enough for Punjab to part ways with Maxwell, but couple that with his price of 10.75 crore, it would borderline be a blunder to retain the Australian. Releasing Maxwell would enable KXIP to have a flexible auction strategy, for aside from having the luxury of being able to explore other options in the market due to the money saved, they will also have the option of buying back to Victorian for a cheaper, acceptable price.
Sheldon Cottrell (8.50 crore): Sheldon Cottrell escaped the IPL 2020 season without much criticism, but he arguably had a season almost as bad as Maxwell. The 8.50 crore KXIP paid for Cottrell - a largely unproven T20 pacer who definitely was not world-class - seemed preposterous even before he played a game, but the actual season pretty much gave it away that he is someone not worth keeping. Not for this amount, at least, when there clearly are bound to be much better options in the market.
Karun Nair (5.60 crore): The Karun Nair KXIP purchased in 2018 was a completely different animal to what he is now. The Nair of 2020 would barely make Karnataka’s SMAT first XI, let alone the starting XI of an IPL side. Considering what Nair has done for Punjab across the last two seasons - average of 5.25 across 6 games - it would be a mortifying decision if they do choose to retain the Karnataka man, that too for 5.60 crore.
Jimmy Neesham (50 lakh): It really doesn’t matter if Punjab bought Neesham for just 50 lakh - he simply is not a T20 cricketer. Neither his batting nor his bowling warrants selection, and, as we came to know last season, he is also not an x-factor player. There are myriad better T20 cricketers available in the market, that too for the same price, who KXIP would be better off going after.
Hardus Viljoen (75 lakh): Viljoen did a job for Punjab two seasons ago, but with now Shami, Jordan and Arshdeep at their disposal, there is no reason for them to retain the South African, who adds no real value or versatility to the setup. When players like Porel and Mujeeb struggled to get a game in a season which saw Punjab hold 8th position for an entire month, it is hard to imagine Viljoen even be in contention to even be a potential back-up. Punjab would be much better off saving up that overseas slot.
Tajinder Singh (20 lakh), Harpreet Brar (20 lakh) and Darshan Nalkande (30 lakh)
The trio made a combined sum of 3 appearances across the last two IPL seasons. Having stacked up their squad with 25 members last season, disposing deadwood would certainly help Punjab, freeing up space for potential new purchases.
Marry (Retain at all cost)
Yes, Punjab were wooden spoon favorites for 75% of the season and yes, they eventually failed to make it to the playoffs. But it would be silly to play down the sheer match-winning ability and talent the squad possesses. The unqualified truth is that they have an enviable core that is perfectly suited to T20 cricket like no other franchise barring Mumbai. There are holes in the side, but there are no glaring flaws - like certain other sides - that need addressing. More mettle is what the side needs, and perhaps they could aim to add that by making smart investments.
Frill (Retain as back-up)
Simran Singh, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Ishan Porel, Krishnappa Gowtham, Sarfaraz Khan, J Suchith
Simran Singh: Given Punjab (re)purchased Simran Singh for just 55 lakh, it is worth keeping someone who is seen as the next big thing from the state. You also wonder if he’s already sealed retention with a strong start to SMAT 2021 - 43, 89* and 63.
Mujeeb ur Rahman: You either use Mujeeb well or you don’t, and so far Punjab have not used the Afghan sensation well, at all. But should they get their formula right, there is every reason for KXIP to believe that they can turn Mujeeb into their very own Rashid. Letting him go a year ahead of the mega auction will beggar belief.
Krishnappa Gowtham: Though Gowtham does not offer the same edge in the bowling as M Ashwin or Bishnoi, the overall package he brings is attractive. Like Mujeeb, KXIP did not make best use of Gowtham last season. There are few in world cricket who can both bowl off-spin and tonk the ball like he does, so letting the Karnataka man go will only weaken Punjab.
Sarfaraz Khan: KXIP could have pondered getting rid of Sarfaraz had they splashed the cash on him, but there is no real upside to releasing a promising young Indian batsman a year before the mega auction when you purchased him for a meagre 25 lakh.
J Suchith and Ishan Porel
Neither youngster made an appearance last season - although Suchith made one match-turning contribution as a sub - but they are both captivating entities who strengthen the squad. One is a three-dimensional cricketer made for T20 cricket, while the other is a gun fast bowler on the verge of having a breakthrough season.
Total number of players KXIP need to retain: 11 (Marry) + 6 (Frill) = 17
Total number of players KXIP need to release (chuck): 8
Cash saved: 26.80 crore
Remaining purse: 43.3 crore