The Punjab Kings (PK) sit two points and two places behind the final playoff spot, but with only six league fixtures remaining have they left themselves too much to recover from?
The Punjab Kings, formerly known as the Kings XI Punjab, have had a decent first leg in India. No matter what the numbers suggest, they aren’t as bad as the numbers show them to be. They’ve won three out of the eight games played and sit in the sixth position level on points with the Rajasthan Royals.
The two-time finalists have had a topsy-turvy ride throughout their IPL journey, and it is reflected in the way the management has run the team. They are one of those chop-and-change types of franchises and their philosophy thus far hasn’t bore any fruits.
The new management spent heavily on the Australian pace duo of Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith, but failure to hit the ground running meant they were shown the door rather early on in the campaign, as the two of them spent the majority of the first leg warming the bench.
Moreover, the Aussie pace duo and Englishman, Dawid Malan, have opted to pull out of the remaining IPL games in the UAE, though the Kings have brought in some handy replacements in the shape of Nathan Ellis, Adil Rashid and Aiden Markram. Ellis is expected to slot in straight into the playing XI, while Adil Rashid’s leg-spin could turn out to be really useful as the pitches wear on.
KL Rahul (c), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, Prabhsimran Singh, Mohammed Shami, Chris Jordan, Darshan Nalkande, Ravi Bishnoi, Murugan Ashwin, Arshdeep Singh, Harpreet Brar, Ishan Porel, Moises Henriques, Shahrukh Khan, Pratyush Singh, Jalaj Saxena, Nathan Ellis, Adil Rashid, Aiden Markram.
With so much to look forward to, let’s take a look at the SWOT Analysis for the Punjab Kings.
The Punjab Kings’ top four is definitely one of the most fearsome top orders in the IPL. The opening duo of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal has continued to flourish since the 2020 campaign that earned them both their Indian call-ups. This year, too, Rahul and Agarwal rank among the top six run-getters at the close of the first leg. KL Rahul is only second to Shikhar Dhawan with 331 runs at a healthy strike rate of 136.4, while Mayank Agarwal has accumulated 260 runs at a strike rate of 141.
The 42-year-old Christopher Henry Gayle is also set be back to wind back the clock a couple of years, while his compatriot, Nicholas Pooran, will need to deliver after a dismal first half where he managed to score only 28 runs from six innings, four of which were ducks. However, in the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Pooran was back to his lethal best as the West Indian scored 263 runs at a blistering strike rate of 163.57.
The Punjab Kings have an inexperienced and fragile middle-order, something that was evident in the summer. Players like Deepak Hooda, Shahrukh Khan, Mandeep Singh and Sarfaraz Khan are all jockeying for those two middle-order slots (Nos. 5 and 6). Deepak Hooda started off pretty well but tailed off as the tournament wore on and the same goes for the Tamil Nadu boy, Shahrukh Khan, who could only manage 107 runs from seven innings, with a top score of 47.
KL Rahul and Anil Kumble will have to manage the workload of Mohamed Shami and Nathan Ellis, with the Punjab Kings already lacking wicket-takers both up front and during the death overs. Chris Jordan was previously rated as a top-class death bowler but in recent years his bowling at the death has been anything but class, having conceded over 11 runs per over since 2019.
Harpreet Brar looked good before the IPL was brought to a halt as the slow left-arm spinner made decent contributions both with the bat and the ball.
Moreover, the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup hasn’t been finalised yet and that is something that will fuel Ravi Bishnoi’s motivation. In one of many bizarre decisions taken by the Anil Kumble-led management team, Ravi Bishnoi was put on the sidelines for their first four fixtures as they preferred Murugan Ashwin over him, but as soon as he returned to the playing XI from their fifth fixture onwards, the change was quite evident as Bishnoi took four wickets at a measly economy of 6.2.
Although not for the Indian setup, Shahrukh Khan will certainly be itching to put on some explosive innings as the Tamil Nadu batsman has barely shown glimpses of what he’s capable of rather than the whole package.
For me, the Punjab Kings management is the biggest threat to any chances of them making it to the Playoffs. The constant chopping and changing hasn’t worked out for them and this is something they should have figured out by now. They have the potential to challenge for that fourth spot, and their opening two fixtures against the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Rajasthan Royals will give them the perfect launch pad to build something from.
The top order will perform as it has been since 2020. The middle and lower orders, despite their fragility, need just one or two contributions per match to put on a fighting score, and as the pitches wear on, the PK spinners will play a big part as well. But can their pacers chip in during the Powerplays and restrict the run flow at the death?
There are a lot of question marks over the Punjab Kings and the odds are stacked heavily against them. But we’ve seen far crazier things happen. I expect them to challenge for the Playoffs till the end and narrowly miss out.