For a team that is never short on glamour and style quotient - thanks to its co-owner Preity Zinta, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), sadly, has not been able to live to the hype on the cricket field in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Despite boasting of some of the biggest names in the sport, KXIP's dream of clinching the IPL title continues to elude them.
They came mighty close to realising that dream in 2014 as they went one opponent past another to win 11 matches alongside just three defeats that season. They were tipped as favourites to win the trophy after their spectacular win over a consistent Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the second qualifier. But, a their three-wicket loss in the final against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) broke their hearts.
After failing to secure a top-four finish in the last four editions, the Mohali-based franchise underwent a major overhaul as they spent a staggering Rs 32.50 crore at the 2019 IPL Auctions. And, the result is quite obvious. Punjab is now well-equipped with some of the most feared batsmen, proven bowlers and valuable all-rounders.
Going into the twelfth edition of the IPL, here are the five key players from Punjab who can change the fortunes for their side this season:
Arguably one of the highly-rated upcoming talents in India, KL Rahul, time and again, has proved his mettle with some blistering knocks in dire situations. He might have struggled a bit in the Indian colours lately, but Rahul, in the Punjab jersey, is a batsman who is more than capable of taking the game away from the opposition.
Boasting of a wide array of strokes, the right-handed batsman took the IPL by storm last season. He was the leading run-getter for Punjab last year, scoring 659 runs in 14 games at a strike-rate of 158.41. And, the fact that out of the 659 runs he scored, 364 runs came in the first six overs at a strike-rate of over 157, shows how deadly he can be in the powerplay.
If Rahul adds teeth to Punjab's opening line-up, Chris Gayle ensures there is no shortage of fireworks early on. One of the most feared batsmen in limited-overs cricket, Gayle needs no introduction when it comes to sending the ball into the stratosphere. He might struggle in running between the wickets, but the 'Universe Boss' can easily make up for it by flexing his big muscles to send the ball over the fence at will.
Released by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in 2018, Gayle sent a stark reminder to his previous employers by shining bright in the Punjab jersey last season. Though he played just 11 games last season, Gayle amassed 368 runs at a strike-rate of over 146. With a highest score of an unbeaten 104, Gayle also slammed three fifties alongside 30 fours and 27 sixes. If Punjab intend to challenge for the title this year, they'd surely need Gayle's firepower at the top.
Owing to his success in Australian domestic cricket and later in Big Bash League (BBL), Andrew Tye was roped in by Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in 2015, only to warm the bench throughout the season. In 2017, signed by now-defunct Gujarat Lions, Tye made a sensational IPL debut, taking five wickets including a hat-trick. His bowling figures of 5-17 were the best by a bowler on IPL debut.
But, with the Gujarat franchise completing its two-year term and bidding adieu to IPL in 2018, Tye found suitors in Punjab who were heavily benefited by his addition. Taking 24 wickets in 14 games, Tye emerged as the leading wicket-taker of the tournament last season. Punjab will once again count on the last year's 'Purple Cap' holder to work his magic for them this season.
Karnataka-born Varun Chakravarthy was quietly sitting with his parents at home when he saw his life turn upside down. The 29-year-old Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) sensation saw Delhi Capitals, Rajasthan Royals, Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings bid furiously for him. And, then came the big moment: Punjab securing his services for Rs 8.4 crore (42 times his base price of Rs 20 lakh).19 December 2018
So, what's so special about this leg-spinner, you'd ask? Well, the mystery spinner has seven different variations and, going by his hefty paycheck, they now officially cost more than Rs 1 crore each. For someone who spun Siechem Madurai Panthers to their maiden TNPL title last season, Varun will surely be expected to carry the baton for his new employers Punjab in latest edition of the IPL.
For someone who has been patiently waiting for a national call-up in limited-overs cricket, Mayank Agarwal has done pretty much everything a batsman can do to strengthen his case. The prolific right-hander has been busy scoring runs in domestic cricket over the past couple of years. He also looked in ominous touch on Test debut against Australia where he scored two clinical fifties for India.
While he struggled to carry on his domestic form into the IPL last season, this could very well be his year. His unbeaten 85-run knock powered Karnataka to the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy title earlier this year. And, with both Gayle and Rahul (World Cup prospects) expected to be used in limited capacity this season, Mayank can surely make the opportunity count with crucial knocks for Punjab.