KXIP cried for the first half of the season, where they lost six games out of seven, but post Chris Gayle’s return to the middle-order found stability, composure and power-hitting while luck seemingly patched up its relationship with them. But now that they are back to scratch, what can they do?
Kings XI Punjab’s fortune last season was just a bad bowl of mixed-bag. While luck seemingly evaded them for the first half of the season, they found themselves in the worst spot possible, chasing a play-off spot. The form of Glenn Maxwell, the trust in Karun Nair and the immense faith in Krishnappa Gowtham didn’t help them during the run. But seemingly out of nowhere, they found new heroes in the next fortnight, with Mandeep Singh, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh and Deepak Hooda all raising their hands. But this season, what do they do?
Who have KXIP retained?
Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh, Ishan Porel, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh, M Ashwin, Harpreet Brar, Darshan Nalkande, Chris Jordan, Deepak Hooda, KL Rahul (C), Nicholas Pooran, Prabhsimran Singh.
Who have KXIP released?
Glenn Maxwell, Sheldon Cottrell, K Gowtham, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Jimmy Neesham, Hardus Viljoen and Karun Nair.
What is their remaining purse?
INR 53.2 cr
How many slots do they have available?
9 (5 overseas)
The underperforming Trans-Tasmanians
With Glenn Maxwell’s release, Kings XI Punjab have solved one problem and caused another - their economy has significantly improved with plenty of players available in the auction but at the same time left vacancy in the finisher-role that is often difficult to find. But make no mistake, Maxwell’s 2020 IPL season left a lot to be desired, especially with the way he has performed for the Kings -108 runs with the bat while picking up three wickets with the ball. Now it might be that KXIP would want him back at a lower price, but, most certainly, such a move wouldn't fulfill their demands. His release, however, now gives them enough money to go hunting for another all-rounder. In addition, they also released the Kiwi all-rounder Jimmy Neesham, who they had utilised to fill the gaping hole left by Maxwell. However, the fact that they have released the two and retained Deepak Hooda in the middle-order could help them get a proper finisher elsewhere, with the most obvious of choices out there in the market. Colin de Grandhomme appears to be one of the front-running choices for the franchise.
A spinner conundrum
KXIP have been notorious for not having trust in their spinners enough. Be it Ravichandran Ashwin or Axar Patel, they have always whiffed past these players within seasons. So it was never going to be a shock when they dropped Krishnappa Gowtham and Mujeeb ur Rahman, with Ravi Bishnoi and M Ashwin the two spinners in the squad. While they have their leg-spin squad set, they have left a gaping hole in the other areas - off-spinner and left-arm spinners. With the league trend suggesting that an all-round spin option is the best way to go about things, KXIP dropping Gowtham set the wrong precedent. Given that there would not be a lot of off-spinners, in particular one of Gowtham’s capability in the Auction pool, it might end up haunting the franchise more than turning into a blessing of disguise. It remains to be seen if this would turn out to be the case.
KXIP’s retention screams for a new middle-order core
Now KXIP have their top-order sorted, with skipper KL Rahul ever-reliable at the top of the order alongside Mayank Agarwal. To make it more inhumane to the other teams, they have the Caribbean superstar Chris Gayle at No.3, which in all likelihood is the way they would go forward this season. However, that’s where the middle-order gap comes screaming. With the franchise done and dusted with Glenn Maxwell and Jimmy Neesham, it really has left them thin in terms of overseas options in the middle-order, someone who can consolidate an innings. While Deepak Hooda might have performed well against CSK last season, he shouldn’t be called from time-to-time to fill the gaping holes. The franchise’s trust in Sarfaraz Khan was blaring and surprising - especially since he wasn’t selected for a large chunk of games last season. However, the availability of Dawid Malan, Heinrich Klassen and Shakib-al-Hasan might tempt them to splash the cash, in turn, setting up for a title shot.
Trust and faith in youngsters - a key theme of their retention strategy
In terms of retention, Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab would be on the opposite end of the spectrum. While CSK have seemingly placed their trust in the experienced and well-sought after stars to do the job, KXIP have taken a rather opposite route. They dropped Glenn Maxwell, Sheldon Cottrell and Jimmy Neesham - three of their big-money overseas recruits from last season - but by doing so ensured that they have an edge over the others in terms of carrying a big purse at the Auction table. While their strategy has been baffling in the past at the auction, the trust in the youngsters has yielded them results, which makes the task of picking players at the Auction relatively easy. With five overseas spots left, the franchise might be tempted to look at the varied bunch of players available to fill the middle-order and bowling unit. KXIP's thought process, however, certainly shows that they are building for the future.
In terms of removing the dead-wood from the franchise, Kings XI Punjab have rather emerged the most successful franchise this year. While CSK tried their level-best, emotions got the better of them but for KXIP, it was well-researched and articulated opinions that helped them make the decisions. As expected they have released nine of their players, but it has only given them more purse which they can exploit in the upcoming auction. In short, it has been a rather fruitful venture for them to release the big names and stick with the Indian core.
Overall rating: 8/10