Having not started Phase 1 of this year’s IPL the way they would’ve liked, Punjab Kings will surely look to bounce back in Phase 2 which will be played in the UAE. Having only won 3 games out of 8 with 6 points in hand, Punjab Kings will give it all to finish top 4 and lift the IPL trophy for the very first time. Although they’ve managed this feat only twice in 13 seasons, finishing as runners-up in 2008 and semi-finalists in 2014, their IPL history is not as impressive or strong as other teams. So let’s take a closer look at their run so far in this year’s tournament and look for their chances of finishing top 4.
Punjab Kings have a lot of variety among their spinners, left arm, right arm, slow left-arm orthodox, they have every package, which is going to be quite handy in UAE conditions as most pitches there are spinners friendly. The ball at times skids through the surface and the spinners with a bit of pace will have an advantage over the slow spinners who look to bowl it along with the air in flight. This means Murugan Ashwin and Fabian Allen whose average speed is a bit higher than the other spinners, will be at an advantage. But they all lack experience, all are young and have very less or no international experience.
Now looking into the top 3 star players that is KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, and Chris Gayle, if they play 20 overs on their day, they can very well score 200 plus runs as they are certified hitters and have proven so being the top 3 run-scorers for their team in Phase 1. Their skipper KL Rahul is in the form of his life having scored 331 runs at an average of 66.2 with 27 fours and a mammoth 16 sixes, which is the most in the tournament so far. He also looked in great touch in the England tour, scoring a hundred at Lord’s, which will do his confidence a world of good and look to carry that momentum here as well. He along with Mayank Agarwal will open the batting as seen in Phase 1, Mayank Agarwal too is in great form and we all know how dangerous he can be on his day, scoring 261 runs in 7 matches at an average of 43.33 including a destructive 99* vs Delhi Capitals in which he also happened to be the captain in the absence of KL Rahul. At number 3, there’s the Universe Boss Chris Gayle who’s arguably one of the best T20 batsmen of all time. Although not in such good touch and probably age-catching up, he’s still managed to score 178 runs in 8 matches at an average of 25.42, which shows he still hasn’t lost it just yet.
All that said, Punjab Kings’ bowling is more of a weakness than strength, their only standout bowler with vast experience is Mohammad Shami, which he has proved by taking 8 wickets in 8 matches and was their best bowler overall in Phase 1. But as mentioned above, UAE pitches will have very little on offer for the fast bowlers so it will be quite interesting to see how Shami performs, or one of the spin bowlers might turn out to be an unlikely hero.
1 KL Rahul
2 Mayank Agarwal
3 Chris Gayle
4 Dawid Malan
5 Nicholas Pooran/ Moises Henriques
6 Deepak Hooda/ Mandeep Singh
7 Shahrukh Khan
8 Ravi Bishnoi
9 Mohammad Shami
10 Arshdeep Singh
11 Riley Meredith/ Jhye Richardson
They’ll miss Dawid Malan, who’s pulled out of IPL Phase 2 due to bubble fatigue. Malan also happens to be the number 1 T20i batsman for quite some time now, although he only got to play one game in Phase 1 but is capable to do wonders in the shortest format. Replacing him will be South Africa’s Aiden Markram, who is not likely to play a lot of games but can be handy at times having scored 426 runs for South Africa in 15 T20i’s at an average of 35.50.
Punjab Kings will resume the tournament more as underdogs than favorites, and most probably won’t end up the tournament as winners, but who knows, anything can happen in sports.