Punjab Kings (PBKS) begin new chapter with a bang

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Kings XI Punjab to Punjab Kings, KXIP to PBKS – everything changed in their name, yet nothing changed in their returns and now we are close to IPL 2022. Fourteen seasons in a tournament, and you haven’t won one. If that isn’ t a sign that you are doing something wrong, what is? It might be player mismanagement, tactical blunders, or inconsistencies in the starting lineup, Punjab Kings have seen all that happen for quite some time now.

Parting ways with their former captain and one of the best T20 batters in the circuit, the Punjab Kings decided to completely revamp their setup by retaining just two players with one of them being uncapped retention. Mayank Agarwal, a seasoned campaigner who has been flourishing with the bat in recent times, and Arshdeep Singh, a left-arm pacer with excellent potential and fair returns in the past season were the sole retentions of the franchise. With two players and a clean sheet, the management has hoped for a change in fortune and what better than a mega auction to rewrite things?

What’s so wrong with the Punjab Kings?

They had a task cut out ahead of them to form a formidable side, and they wouldn’t be disappointed with how things went. We will be looking at their auction strategy, possible starting XI, the major backups, and how the team has shaped up in terms of balance and look at loopholes present.

IPL 2022 Punjab Kings (PBKS): The Top Order

There are batters who pile runs every season consistently, there are batters who maintain a healthy average, there are batters who strike at a great rate, and then there is Mayank Agarwal who has been doing all these consistently for the past three seasons in the IPL . Scoring 1197 runs at an average of 37.42 and a strike rate of 146.15 in the last three seasons, PBKS would have had no second thoughts in retaining Mayank Agarwal who is a solid option right at the top of the lineup.

Shikhar Dhawan was the first name to be called at the auction and the Punjab Kings were not hesitant to shell out a whopping 8.25 Crores for the veteran southpaw. What might seem like an overpriced pick considering he doesn’t have age by his side, Dhawan scoring over 500 runs in the past 3 seasons each cannot be overlooked and rightly justifies why he was highly sought after. Apart from adding variety at the top of the order as a left-handed batter, he also has the ability to anchor and shift gears as the game progresses, which gives the other batters the freedom to go berserk around him. With rich experience in his bag, Shikhar Dhawan can also be a potential captaincy choice.

PBKS made what might be the best bargain of the auction by roping in the English white-ball superstar batter Jonny Bairstow at a price of 6.75 Crores. With the ability to play pace and spin equally well, the flexibility to bat anywhere between 1 and 4 , and additionally presenting the wicket-keeping option, Bairstow was going to be an asset regardless of which position and under which conditions you play him.

With Dhawan, Agarwal, and Bairstow constituting the top three, PBKS will have to make a decision on who they pair Dhawan with to open the innings. While Agarwal has predominantly opened for the franchise, Bairstow seems to be the better complement to Dhawan at the top. The reason is the extraordinary power-hitting abilities of Bairstow against pacers, which is also the weaker suit of Dhawan. Mayank’s best phase has turned out to be the middle overs where he strikes at a rate close to 160 averaging just over 34, and his middle overs exploits also support the fact that he is more suited to bat at 3 in this setup.

ALSO READ: CSK squad analysis

IPL 2022 Punjab Kings (PBKS) – INR 20.5 crores, the value of six-hitting

Next comes the English hard-hitting batter Liam Livingstone. When Livingstone’s name appeared in the auction, PBKS had already formed a great base with particular roles to be filled. Having acquired Shahrukh Khan, two Indian openers, and a couple of other first-choice Indian bowlers, PBKS had the liberty to go big on Liam Livingstone and fill that middle-order role with an overseas player. Liam might not be a household name in the IPL but it did not come as a surprise when he was offered 11.5 Crores, which is due to the lack of quality middle order batters in world cricket who can hit both pacers and spinners equally well. 2021 The Hundred Men’s Competition and the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup 2021 were an exhibition of what Livingstone has to offer in shorter formats. While Livingstone’s pace-hitting prowess is what the franchise is primarily going to benefit from, his bowling capability is often understated. Apart from being their finisher, Livingstone can also chip in with at least a couple of overs of spin each game.

The role of a finisher is often regarded as the toughest to perform in Twenty20 cricket. Shahrukh Khan was certainly an anticipated hot pick considering the paucity of domestic finishers. If you can hit the long balls right from your ball 1 at the death, then you are going to make crores at the IPL auction and this is exactly what Shahrukh Khan did. Donning the finisher’s role for his state side Tamilnadu and putting up consistent performances, Shahrukh was definitely under the radar of multiple franchises. In the 10 games that he batted During the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2021, Shahrukh scored 189 runs and remained not out in 6 innings while averaging 47.25 and striking at a massive rate of 181.73. PBKS would know Shahrukh’s ability better than anyone else since he has earlier been a part of the franchise and was considered to be their future prospect.

Indian U19 all-rounder Raj Bawa is another exciting addition to the PBKS setup. The world took notice of Raj Bawa when he hammered a 162* against Uganda during the recently concluded U19 World Cup. Filling up slots 2-5 with right-handers, PBKS would fancy having a left-hander in the middle who has big-hitting prowess and provide value as a floater. While Bawa does exactly that, he also brings in value as a medium-pacer who can be looked at as a 7th bowling option. By the looks of Punjab spending 2 crores on a youngster, there is a high possibility that he features in the starting XI.

Next in the order is Odean Smith, the West Indian pacer who can also hit the long balls with the bat. A great season with the ball at the Caribbean Premier League 2021 where Smith picked up 18 wickets in 11 games at an economy of 7.55, and his exploits with the bat at the Abu Dhabi T10 League has made franchises aware of his abilities. His good performance with the ball and late flourish with the bat in the recent ODI series against India did play their part in Smith securing a fat paycheck of 6 crores. Smith has the ability to clock 140s, and PBKS can look at him as their enforcer with the ball. With a great ceiling and age by his side, Odean Smith will be an asset in the coming years for PBKS.

With the likes of Harpreet Brar, Rahul Chahar, and Kagiso Rabada to follow, Punjab bat deep. But for now, we will be more concerned about what they have to offer with the ball.

IPL 2022 Punjab Kings (PBKS) – Can they sort the bowling?

Wicketless powerplays, economical middle overs, and a lot of wickets at the death

Kagiso Rabada was PBKS’s second pick at the auction and he fetched an amount of 9.25 crores, which is natural for a pacer of Rabada’s caliber. Death bowling, a phase that pacers will usually dread, is Rabada’s natural strength. In the last 3 years, Rabada has picked up 39 wickets every eight balls on an average that he has bowled in overs 17-20 at an economy of 9.24. This is exactly why he is seen as a top-choice death overs bowler in T20 cricket. While his returns in the past season have been mediocre, PBKS would hope that he rediscovers his old self and repays the faith that the franchise has placed in him. While we have talked enough about his death overs bowling, what could be a concern is his returns in the powerplay . The wickets columns seem dry in the powerplay as he has picked up only 9 wickets in the 342 balls that he has bowled in the powerplay since 2019. With Odean being new to the setup and very little experience bowling with the new ball, the franchise would expect Rabada to strike consistently in the powerplay alongside Arshdeep Singh.

Arshdeep’s graph has consistently moved up every season and PBKS made a steal by retaining an Indian left-arm pacer with excellent potential for just 4 crores. Arshdeep has maintained an economy of 7.53 and picked up a wicket every 18 balls in the powerplay in the last couple of seasons. He has also been great at the death picking up 14 wickets at an economy of 9.47 in the 121 balls that he has bowled. While Arshdeep and Rabada will form a great pair at the death overs, the lack of wickets from Rabada in the powerplay will be a concern for the Kings.

Punjab’s spin bowling department looks very healthy after acquiring the services of Rahul Chahar and Harpreet Brar. Chahar and Brar will look to share the eight overs out of the ten in the middle overs between them. Chahar has been great at controlling runs, as well as picking wickets in the middle overs which is reflected by his economy rate of 7.42 and strike rate of 21.43 picking up 35 wickets in this phase since 2019. Brar’s best season came in 2021 when he picked up 5 wickets In 7 games at an economy of 6.04 . In the middle overs, he was even better, conceding at just below 6 runs per over. Both these bowlers have been effective against their unfavorable matchups, the left-handed batters, and have exhibited great control. While the two form a formidable pair , Livingstone’s mystery spin will make them an excellent trio.

IPL 2022 Punjab Kings (PBKS): Fine Backups

Punjab have also bagged a few great backups. Ishan Porel has had the reputation of being a new ball specialist in the domestic circuit and can be slotted in at any moment if there is a considerable slip in returns during the powerplay. Sandeep Sharma is another experienced pacer who has had great returns with the new ball in the IPL. While he has been on a decline, his experience can still be trusted and can be slotted in if there are any injuries. Australian pacer Eliis is a perfect backup for Rabada, who can contribute during the death overs. Prabhsimran Singh for long has been with the Punjab Kings and he is a solid reserve for the opening and the second keeper slot. Rishi Dhawan can come in handy as well with the ball and in the lower middle order with the bat if Raj Bawa is unable to shine as expected. Bhanuka Rajapaksa can be looked at as a cover for Liam Livingstone and can be slotted in the middle order if required.

The Team to Beat?

That’s a big question for Punjab Kings, but they have the bases sorted. They put on an excellent show at the auction table, covering most bases. While their lower middle order and new ball bowling might come out as a concern, their top five batters , spinners, and their death over bowling can be trusted on most occasions to win games. It would be a disappointment if the Punjab Kings don’t make the playoffs this year and will be the team to beat as well.

What is wrong with Punjab Kings? READ HERE.

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