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Indian Premier League 2021

IPL 2021: Punjab Kings seek an antidote for inconsistency

Barring their 2014 runner-up campaign, the franchise has failed to make a dent in the IPL universe.

IPL 2021: Punjab Kings seek an antidote for inconsistency
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Skipper KL Rahul will look to rally the Punjab Kings troops and push for a playoff spot in IPL 2021 (Source: ESPNcricinfo)
By

Rashi Bhattacharyya

Updated: 2021-04-05T18:10:20+05:30

Punjab Kings, formerly known as Kings XI Punjab, had a roller-coaster of a season in IPL 2020.

Their early failures jeopardized their late revival and any chances of reaching the playoffs eroded as they finished sixth on the points table.

Punjab's 2020 showing mirrored their saga of inconsistency since the inception of the Indian Premier League, where despite the presence of big stars and match-winning performances, the team has failed to scale the summit.

Last time around, the lack of good death-bowling and a crumbling middle-order cost them a spot in the playoffs.

Thus, the team management released a bunch of expensive players like Glenn Maxwell and Sheldon Cottrell before the auction.

With the largest purse during the auction, PBKS attempted to address the problem areas.

We review the Punjab Kings squad in this SWOT analysis.

The strengths of Punjab Kings

An effective top order

After going through a lean patch, skipper KL Rahul seems to be back in form following his valuable contributions during India's ODI series against England.
As the franchise's most consistent player, Rahul raked up 659 runs in 2018, 593 runs in 2019, and 670 runs in 2020.
The current holder of the Orange Cap is expected to get the runs flowing for PBKS again.
Rahul should get ample support from state-mate Mayank Agrawal, who was quite reliable last season and scored 424 runs in the tournament despite missing a few matches due to injury.
The 'Universe Boss' Chris Gayle is also ready to fire after scoring 288 runs with a strike rate of 137.14 in the 7 matches he played last year.

A strong batting line-up on paper

Despite a strong top order, Punjab has struggled to find the perfect middle order which can sustain the innings and finish the matches when required in the last couple of years.
This time around, with the addition of Moises Henriques and Fabian Allen, they have overseas all-rounders who can take up the role that Maxwell was meant to play last season.
And then there is Englishman Dawid Malan - currently ranked number one in ICC T20I batting rankings. Punjab will be desperately hoping that this left-haded batting star comes good.
The presence of explosive players like Shahrukh Khan and Prabsimran Singh in the squad can be beneficial for the team as both of them performed exceedingly well during this year's Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
In the domestic games in the lead up to the IPL, Shahrukh scored 88 runs in 4 innings with an impressive strike rate of 220, and Prabsimran scored 341 runs in 7 matches with a strike rate of 142.08.
The line-up will yet again benefit from the expertise of Nicholas Pooran and Deepak Hooda, who have previously played crucial knocks for the team.
The weaknesses of Punjab Kings

Plotholes aplenty in the bowling department

While Mohammed Shami, Chris Jordan, Ravi Bishnoi, and M Ashwin are set to reprise their respective roles, some of their new additions, although promising, lack the IPL experience.
Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith, who have been brought in to back Shami in the pace department and solve the death-bowling dilemma, have not played in the league.
Furthermore, since both of them can hardly be in the squad at the same time given the 4 overseas player limit, PBKS's strategy to not onboard an Indian pacer in the auctions might just backfire.
Another evident weakness in the bowling department can be the lack of an established spinner.
Bishnoi and Ashwin did a decent job last time, but had the franchise made a bid for a specialist spinner, it would have added more firepower to the spin attack.
Since Fabian Allen is the only capped player amongst the spinners, PBKS may place some faith in him from time to time.
The opportunities in store for Punjab Kings

Exciting new names

Most of the players acquired by Punjab in the 2021 auction are yet to make their IPL debuts.
Both Richardson and Meredith might lack the IPL experience, however, their tremendous record in Australia's Big Bash League precedes them.
Also, the duo can clock up speeds of over 150 km/hr.

All eyes will be on Tamil Nadu all-rounder Shahrukh Khan, who is known for his quick 30s and 40s at the middle order.

Head coach Anil Kumble has likened him to Kieron Pollard.

The threats that loom large over Kings Punjab

Inability to finish games

Last time, Punjab had many close encounters but weak death-bowling and a brittle lower middle-order kept them from closing out matches.
While those issues have been addressed, KL Rahul and Co. need to work hard to prevent a repeat of the lapses.

Injuries

Md Shami and Rahul both sustained injuries during the Australia tour.
While KL Rahul did make a full recovery and an ODI ton against England put all fitness questions to rest, the same cannot be said about Shami.
Since the Bengal pacer returned from Australia with a broken arm, he has been put through the paces at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.
That said, Shami has not played competitive cricket for a while now and for that very reason, only time will tell if he can make a dent in the opposition.

In summary...

Kings Punjab does have the batting firepower in KL Rahul, Malan, Agarwal and Gayle to send the opposition on a leather-hunt.
It's their bowling, however, that appears suseptable.
And thus, skipper Rahul and Anil Kumble (Head and Director of Cricket Operations) have their task cut out.
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