After setting the stage on fire initially, it seemed as if the Kings XI Punjab team ran out of gas in the second half of the eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). They started the season last year with some dazzling performances and at the halfway mark they looked as one of the favourites to lift the title, however, when the playoffs stage came closer, their performances dropped down drastically, after which they even failed to qualify for the knockouts. However, this year with a reloaded and refreshed unit, the Ravichandran Ashwin-led team will be hoping for some change in their fortunes. They will be starting their journey in the upcoming IPL season with their first game scheduled on March 25 against the Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur.
Before the start of auction proceedings for IPL 2019, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) franchisee released most of its players and thus, went into the auction with the heaviest purse. Their most surprising buy which also grabbed a lot of headlines was the signing of mystery spinner Varun Chakaravarthy. In a bid to bolster their composition, they procured a bunch of all-rounders in Sam Curran, Moises Henriques, Harpreet Brar and some other promising talents as well. They strengthened their fast bowling department by picking the likes of Mohammed Shami, Hardus Vilojen and Arshdeep Singh. KXIP owners and management bought a total of 13 players at the auction ceremony, which is also the most number of cricketers acquired by any franchisee.
Kings XI Punjab’s possible starting XI
After a thunderous performance last year where he amassed a staggering tally of 659 runs, KL Rahul portrayed to be the lone-warrior for his team. He carried the heavy load of piling up runs in every next match and it was surely mesmerizing to watch. However, the times have changed drastically for him as his form has been awful in the recent times, getting dropped from both the Test as well as limited-overs teams. He will be hoping to use the upcoming IPL season as a ladder to push his case further for a probable 2019 World Cup spot.
Much like his franchise, Chris Gayle’s fortunes were also quite bewildering last season. He started the season with some spectacular performances which included a terrific century knock as well, however, as the tournament progressed, his consistency meter also took a U-turn. However, with a herculean performance in the recently concluded ODI series against England at his back, the big-hitting West Indian looks to be in the best form of his life and he will eyeing to carry his stunning form in IPL 2019.
After not getting many opportunities in the previous edition, Mayank Aggarwal will be hoping to get a consistent run at the crucial No.3 position. After an ordinary season last year, Karun Nair will also be looking to come up with significant performances. Windies swashbuckling batsman Nicholas Pooran, who recently became the talk of the town for his destructive strokeplay during the 2018 T10 League, will be taking up the No.5 spot as well as don the gloves.
Whereas after being traded from Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Mandeep Singh will also be looking forward to secure the role of the finisher. The trio of Pooran, Aggarwal and Mandeep need to come up with consistent performances in order to keep exciting talents like David Miller, Sarfaraz Khan and Prabhsimran Singh seated on the bench.
The debutant duo comprising of Sam Curran and Varun Chakaravarthy will be the two all-rounders for KXIP. Coming into the IPL with some great reputation, Varun will be aiming to showcase his talent and worth at the grandest stage, in order to justify his large-size price tag of INR 8.4 Crore. On the other hand, Curran who earned an IPL call-up on the basis of impressive performances in the Test series against India will once again be looking to turn the game on its head, just like he did against India in the longest format of the game.
KXIP skipper Ravichandran Ashwin will be heading the spin department along with the mystery spinner, Chakaravarthy. After a breakthrough season last year, ending up as the highest wicket-taker with a phenomenal tally of 24 wickets to his name, Andrew Tye will be leading the fast bowling department along with one to choose between Ankit Rajpoot and Mohammed Shami. The former performed exceptionally well throughout the previous edition, while Shami is perhaps in the best form of his career right now. With his recent form and years of experience of playing for India, Shami is likely to be picked ahead of Rajpoot in the starting XI.
Probable XI: Chris Gayle, KL Rahul, Mayank Aggarwal, Karun Nair, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Mandeep Singh, Varun Chakaravarthy, Sam Curran, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Andrew Tye, Mohammed Shami.