After lying at the bottom of the table in the first half, KXIP came roaring back in the second half of IPL 2020. Until their last game, they were in contention for a top-4 finish.
They played the last season pretty much on the back of their captain and the premier batsman KL Rahul, who also won the orange cap. Apart from him, they have the legend Chris Gayle and impressive Mayank Agarwal in the top-order.
Holding up the middle-order is Nicholas Pooran who is among the most feared hitters going around in cricket at the moment.
In the bowling department, they have the ever-improving Mohammed Shami along with up and coming leggies with a lot of potential in Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin. These seven players form the core of this KXIP side.
KXIP best XI based on the current squad-
KL Rahul (c&wk), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Mandeep Singh, Nicholas Pooran, Deepak Hooda, Sarfaraz Khan, Chris Jordan, Mohd Shami, Ravi Bishnoi, Murugan Ashwin
They also released some of their key highly paid but non-performing players.
Glenn Maxwell - Bought at whopping 10.75 crores, Maxwell was one of the biggest flops of IPL 2020. He had no half-centuries to his name in 11 innings and scored at a paltry strike-rate of a 101.9. One of the biggest hitters in world cricket at the moment, he did not hit a six throughout the season.
Sheldon Cottrell – Another expensive buy, at 8.5 crores, Cottrell was the fourth most expensive player in the 2020 auction. After a decent couple of initial games, his IPL journey in 2020 derailed. He bowled at an economy of above 10 and picked only two wickets in the last four outings. Moreover, his ineffective death bowling, as suggested by his economy of 16 in the last five overs, is a driving factor for his release.
Mujeeb Ur Rahman - Mujeeb’s release comes as surprise. He was a part of KXIP set-up since his IPL debut in 2018. He is one of the most sought-after T20 spinners across franchise cricket. However, the presence of two domestic leggies in Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin can be a factor in his release. He played only two games in IPL 2020
Having released their big shot players KXIP has 9 slots to fill (the 2nd most slots to fill after RCB) and the highest purse size of 53.2 crores. They have 5 overseas slots to fill too.
Going into the auction this year, KXIP are at an advantage not only with their budget but with the slots available for foreign players. Based on the players they have, only Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran are certainties among foreign players. Hence for every spot they need to fill, they are free to target an overseas player.
Requirement 1: Pacers
KXIP’s pacers had one of the highest economy rate in IPL 2020. Hence, KXIP leaked runs in two pace-dominated phases – Powerplay and Death Overs. In both these phases, their economy rate was highest after Rajasthan Royals.
KXIP have released Cottrell, James Neesham and Hardus Viljoen. They found an able bowler in Arshdeep Singh in the latter half of IPL 2020. It will be a surprise if Ishan Porel doesn’t get a game after his performance in SMAT this season.
However, their main pacer – Mohammed Shami – does not have an affinity to bowling in the death overs and prefers the new ball. In IPL 2020, his economy in the Powerplay was 7.5 that swelled to 11.7 at the death. KXIP are also likely to go big for an alternative for Chris Jordan, who is not as consistent as a foreign player is expected to be.
One player whom teams are likely to fight for is Jhye Richardson who was impressive for Perth Scorchers in the BBL 10. He was the joint leading wicket-taker in overs 16-20 and had an exceptional economy of 8.6. Richardson has international experience behind him which can work in his favour.
As back-ups, they can also go for bowlers who were exceptional at the death in the recently concluded BBL. Adam Milne – economy of 7.8 in nine innings, Nathan Ellis – economy of 8.3 in 14 innings and Riley Meredith – economy of 8.5 in 11 innings. Out of these, the Kiwi pacer Milne has international experience.
Requirement 2: Death Overs batting and all-rounders
Overall, KXIP’s batting has been their strength. But, they need an able partner for Nicholas Pooran. Someone who can share the burden in the last few overs. In IPL 2020, last five overs was their weakest phase with the bat due to a disappointing season for Maxwell.
Moreover, with the release of Maxwell, Krishnappa Gowtham and Neesham, the only batsman in their current squad who can roll his arm over is Deepak Hooda. Hence, they are in dire need of an all-rounder.
Based on the players that might come up in the auction, they might target Sam Billings to fill the batting spot available in the middle-order. For the all-rounders, the prime candidates are Shakib Al-Hasan, Moeen Ali or even a Fabien Allen. If they are looking for pace bowling all-rounders, the options for them are Kyle Jamieson, Moises Henriques and also Shivam Dube.
Jamieson is an up and coming Kiwi who has done well in New Zealand conditions. Henriques is a grafter who can chip in with a few overs. The only advantage with Dube is that he is an India medium-pace all-rounder: the rarest commodity in cricket.
Requirement 3: Off spinners
With the release of Gowtham and Maxwell, KXIP do not have even part-time off-spinners of IPL standard. Hence, this is one area they would look to cover in the auction for 2021 season.
Players KXIP should go after in this category are Harbhajan Singh who is likely to ignite a bidding war this season. They can also look to hit two birds with one stone and buy Moeen, who will also fill the role of an all-rounder.