Kings XI Punjab had a season of two halves in IPL 2020, as they started off with six losses in their first seven games but roared back to win five games in a row. However, a loss to Chennai Super Kings in their last league game meant that the KL Rahul-led franchise were unable to qualify for the playoffs for yet another season.
We look at some players the team might target this season.
Players Released by KXIP ahead of IPL 2021 Auction: Glenn Maxwell, Karun Nair, Hardus Viljoen, Jagadeesha Suchith, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Sheldon Cottrell, Jimmy Neesham, Krishnappa Gowtham, Tajinder Singh.
Players Retained by KXIP ahead of IPL 2021 Auction: KL Rahul (c), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran, Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, Prabhsimran Singh, Mohammed Shami, Chris Jordan, Darshan Nalkande, Ravi Bishnoi, Murugan Ashwin, Arshdeep Singh, Harpreet Brar, Ishan Porel
IPL 2021 Auction Purse: 53.20 crore INR
Slots to fill: 9 (including five overseas)
The South African all-rounder is expected to fetch big bucks, and a team like KXIP has the budget to go all out for him. Chris Morris has the skills to exceed in the death overs with the ball, and had a season to remember with the Royal Challengers Bangalore last year even though he missed the first half of the tournament due to an injury. The player has a strike rate of 157.87 with the bat in hand in the IPL, and an economy rate of just 7.81 – astonishing numbers for any player.
Over the last few seasons, KXIP have struggled as far as their middle order batting and death overs bowling is concerned. Last season, Glenn Maxwell and James Neesham failed to get going – the former did not hit a single six in the season – which prompted Punjab to release both players. They are in the market for a seaming all-rounder, who can be a match-winner with the bat on a consistent basis, and who better than Morris to pick in the upcoming auctions?
The West Indian could plug a number of gaping holes in the KXIP unit if he is bought on board by the franchise in the mini auction that is scheduled to be held on February 18 in Chennai. The lack of a fine finisher last season forced skipper KL Rahul to play cautiously, which often affected the team’s chances. Though Rahul ended as the Orange Cap winner with over 600 runs, his strike rate left much to be desired. The presence of Fabian Allen could not only allow Rahul to play his natural attacking game but will also lend the much needed stability lower down the order. Fabian Allen is a brute against pace, especially in the death overs, and can be more than handy with the ball as well. The slow left arm spinner will add variety to an already rich spin bowling attack that KXIP possesses, and could be the X-factor in the tournament this year.
The fact that KXIP has the biggest purse among all the other eight sides, with as many as five overseas slots to fill, means that they will be actively involved when it comes to big name overseas players. One player that they might target, and the other teams might not have the budget for, is England batsman Dawid Malan.
Malan is currently the number one batsman in T20 Internationals, and could be an ideal fit in the Punjab squad as a back-up option for Chris Gayle. The West Indian is well over 40 years of age, and is unlikely to play all games in the IPL, and the franchise will do well to have a powerful hitter of the ball like Gayle in their ranks. With Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran and Dawid Malan in the top five, KXIP will have a much envied batting order, and they will be unstoppable if they all get going.
Though KXIP released Krishnappa Gowtham ahead of IPL 2021, the franchise could buy him back considering that he is a decent hitter of the cricket ball along with being an effective spinner in the middle overs. Punjab already have two quality slower bowlers in Murugan Ashwin and Ravi Bishnoi in their side, and if they can buy both Gowtham and Fabian Allen, they will have all types of spinners in their side, which will make them an even more lethal team.
The Indian had a season to remember in IPL 2018 when he picked up 11 wickets and scored runs at a rate of nearing 197 with the bat. However, he was released by his team Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2020 after he failed to leave much of a mark in 2019. Punjab played Gowtham in just two games last season before releasing him, but they might be looking to buy back the player to add variety and bolster the lower middle order.
The young Australian can send down his overs at 140+ clicks an hour, and will be a great addition to the side that already has Mohammad Shami. Riley Meredith had a fine season in the Big Bash League this season, where he ended with 16 wickets from 13 games at an economy rate of just 7.83. Overall, he has picked up 43 wickets in his T20 career of 34 games, and has impressed with his new ball abilities.
Meredith has an average of 16.8 in the death overs and is economical in the powerplay overs as well, which makes him a fast bowler that many teams will be eager to get on board.