Best finish: Runners up in 2014
Worst finish: Last spot in 2010, 2015 and 2016
IPL 2020 finish: 6th
Top Run-Getter: Shaun Marsh – 2,477
Top Wicket-Taker: Piyush Chawla - 84
New additions in 2021: Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith, Moises Henriques, Shahrukh Khan, Dawid Malan, Fabian Allen, Jalaj Saxena, Utkarsh Singh, Saurabh Kumar
For Punjab Kings, known as Kings XI Punjab earlier, change is the only constant. In IPL 2020, PBKS were able to reverse the trend of 2018 and 2019. In those two seasons, they fell off the cliff in the second half of the tournament. In 2020, PBKS woke up from a snooze after losing six out of their first seven games. With a decent comeback to end at a respectable sixth, it would have been unfair to continue the record trend of changing the captain or the coach. But, what’s there in the name. And especially when changing the team name has worked for their next-door neighbours who are looking to jump over them in an unwanted race to be the least successful franchise in IPL.
Shenanigans apart, PBKS have made some solid additions to their squad this season. They went in with a whopping purse size of 53.2 crores and bought some key players to fill some decisive voids.
With some marquee T20 names in their mix, PBKS are a batting heavy team. Chris Gayle is a T20 legend and Nicholas Pooran will surely be one in a few years. Mayank Agarwal has transformed himself into an aggressive batsman as his strike rate of 144.4 in the last two seasons suggests. With these three batsmen having an average of 35+ and a strike rate of 135+ last season, PBKS were one of the sides with multiple batsmen dominating on volume and rate of scoring.
Add to this the Orange Cap winner in 2020, KL Rahul. The faster they came, the faster they went off Rahul’s bat as he ended the season at an average of 76.29 and a strike rate of 142.78 against pace. In the first 15 overs, PBKS batted at a run rate of 8.04, the second-best after the champions Mumbai Indians.
On the bowling front, Punjab were decent during the middle-overs. This is largely thanks to their leggies – seasoned Murugan Ashwin and the rookie Ravi Bishnoi.
Ashwin in particular was spectacular with an economy of 6.9 in overs 7-15 last year. Moreover, he has the third-best balls per wicket record among spinners of 18.9 in all phases combined. PBKS won six of the nine games when he was in the XI.
The most glaring thorn in PBKS’s flesh was their pace-attack. None of their foreign pacers were inspiring while the Indian contingent was inconsistent. Mohammed Shami has improved in the last two seasons but is still far off from the standard of his Indian counterparts in other teams. His economy of 11.7 at the death in the last season was the second-worst among pacers with a minimum of 10 overs. Chris Jordan with an economy of 11.2 was not far behind.
Arshdeep Singh found a place in the XI late, impressed initially, but lost faith by the last game of the season. On economy rate, PBKS pacers are the second-worst after Rajasthan.
Their pacers were decent when it came to taking wickets but lost out on the more important job of containing runs. PBKS also missed a dedicated hitter in the lower order. Hence their run-rate of 9.99 in the last five overs was better than only two teams – Sunrisers and Capitals.
Their batsmen from numbers five to seven averaged 9.2 balls per boundary last season. This was the worst by a minimum of 1.5 balls from any other side.
Shelling 14 crores, PBKS picked Jhye Richardson who was the leading wicket-taker in the latest edition of the Big Bash League with 29 scalps each of which came at a phenomenal 12.7 balls. Keeping him company will be a fellow Aussie in Riley Meredith. With raw pace and accurate yorkers, Meredith has garnered a reputation from himself.
PBKS surprised most analysts by not giving Ishan Porel a game last season. Since then, he has been on fire with 13 wickets in five games in the recent edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and is knocking on the door for an IPL debut. With the help of these three, PBKS should be able to make amends to their lacklustre pace bowling last season.
To provide much-needed impetus to the lower-middle order, PBKS have added Fabian Allen and Shahrukh Khan to their side. Playing in the lower-middle order, Shahrukh had a rollicking SMAT this year with a strike rate of 220 in four innings.
The addition of Dawid Malan also provides an alternate if age finally catches up on Gayle. If Malan plays, he can take over the mantle of an anchor from Rahul who can then bat with freedom. If things work out well, PBKS have a strong side to push for a playoff spot at least.
The biggest threat to PBKS’ prospects is the approach of their skipper Rahul. Batting under the motto of “strike rates are overrated”, Rahul went into his shell while facing the tweakers last season and batted at a strike rate of 94.4 against the spinners. Losing his place in India’s T20 side in the recent series against England might also make him circumspect but PBKS’ batting coach, Wasim Jaffer has indicated that Rahul would be aggressive.
As none of their top-five can roll their arm, PBKS are also short on all-rounders. Other players in the squad like Deepak Hooda is a part-time option at best while Utkarsh Singh and Saurabh Kumar will be in their debut season. Also, they do not have a proven off-spinner to counter match-ups against left-handers.
PBKS must play either Allen or Moises Henriques in XI so that they do not have to rely on five bowlers. If they can find an XI that works for them, they are in for a decent season.
Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (c&wk), Nicholas Pooran, Shahrukh Khan, Fabian Allen, Jhye Richardson, Ravi Bishnoi, Murugan Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishan Porel.