One among 3 teams to have played the inaugural season in 2008 and yet to lay their hands on the IPL trophy, Kings XI Punjab have a pretty strong squad heading into IPL 2020. The firepower in Punjab's batting line-up is sure to strike fear into opposition ranks and they seem to have also improved on the bowling front with some shrewd signings. They have a few impact players who on their day can win matches single-handedly for them.
Here's a look at 5 players who can help KXIP lift their first IPL title in 2020:
(Foreign players have been selected subject to their availability for IPL 2020)
#1. KL Rahul
Named the captain of KXIP recently, Lokesh Rahul had been earmarked for greatness ever since his foray into international cricket. His form in the IPL over the years has been top-notch. Playing for Punjab in the last 2 seasons as an opener Rahul has smashed 593 and 659 runs respectively at an average of 53.90 and 54.91. When asked to pick his favorite cricketer recently, West Indies great Brian Lara chose Rahul and said.
"Rahul's technique and grace is just unbelievable. Of course, up there in the top three you've got Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma but every time I see him (Rahul) facing a delivery, I just love it; his head is over the ball all the time, he has a technique that I wish I had."
Rahul has been in a rich vein of form recently, starring for India in the limited-overs formats when they toured New Zealand where he amassed a record 224 runs in 5 T20Is at an average of 56 and a strike rate of 145, and 204 runs in 3 innings in the ODI series at an average of 102 and a strike rate of 119.
His versatility playing for India (batting out of position in the middle order or keeping wickets) must keep him in good stead as he dons the captain's hat in the IPL for the first time. The KXIP faithful would be expecting their run machine and 'Captain' to take them all the way this IPL.
#2. Chris Gayle
Often called the 'king' of T20 cricket, Gayle has been annihilating bowling attacks at will and has been the largest source of entertainment for crowds with his big-hitting in limited-overs cricket. Sixth on the all-time list of leading IPL run-getters, Gayle is second in the list for most runs by an overseas player only behind David Warner.
It was with RCB that Gayle enjoyed his best years (2011-2017) scoring 3163 runs in 85 innings at an average of 42 and a strike rate of 152.7. Gayle has a host of records to his name in the IPL most notably, the fastest hundred scored off only 30 balls against PWI in 2013 and also the most sixes throughout his IPL career.
Owing to poor form in 2016 and 2017 RCB, released Gayle into the auction and he made a silent move to KXIP in IPL 2018. Many believed that Gayle's IPL career would soon be over but the veteran rolled back the years and formed a fearsome opening partnership with Rahul. He has scored 490 and 368 runs respectively for Punjab in the last 2 seasons and has seemed to enjoy the bounce that the pitch at Mohali provides. Expect Gayle to deliver the goods in IPL 2020 and entertain crowds like he always does
#3. Glenn Maxwell
A destructive middle-order batsman from Australia who can take apart any bowling attack on his day, Maxwell exemplifies the typical modern-day cricketer. A fielding captain's nightmare, Maxwell can pull off unorthodox shots with ease.
Apart from being a fearsome hitter, Maxwell is a brilliant fielder who can also contribute with his off-spin. To maximize Maxwell's impact on the game, he will need to be sent higher up the order by the KXIP management, thereby giving him time to settle and then unleash his shots on the bowlers.
Punjab's best performance in the IPL came in 2014 (where they lost a closely contested final to Kolkata Knight Riders) on the back of Maxwell's heroics with the bat (He amassed 552 runs in 16 innings at an average of 34.50 and a strike rate of 187.75). Maxwell has the fifth-highest career strike rate in IPL history (161.13) which shows how destructive he can be on his day. It will be a 'homecoming' of sorts for Maxwell ( having last played for Punjab in 2017) and he will be looking to make this opportunity count.
#4. Mohammed Shami
Having debuted for India in early 2013 against Pakistan, Mohammed Shami has risen through the ranks to be counted among the world's best fast bowlers right now. A deceptively potent bowler Shami can swing and seam the ball at pace and has formed a fearsome trio with Bumrah and Ishant for the last couple of years in Tests.After Mohammed Shami won India a T20I against New Zealand with his bowling heroics, this is what former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar had to say:
“Shami is a very clever bowler. He is the find of India and he is the best fast bowler in the world. Whatever situation you put him in, he always excels, whether it’s a world cup or a T20 in New Zealand, he’s a very very smart fast bowler. When he got to know that yorkers won’t work, he immediately switched to length balls and bouncers,” explained Akhtar
His resurgence over the last couple of years has seen him go onto become an all-format player delivering impactful performances one after another for India.
Last year playing for KXIP he went on to have his best season in the IPL picking up 19 wickets in 14 matches at an average of 24.68 and a strike rate of 17.05. In IPL 2020 he will be expected to take up the role of Punjab's bowling spearhead and guide youngsters like Ishan Porel.
#5. Ravi Bishnoi
Touted as India's next spin wizard, Ravi Bishnoi made heads turn with his bowling performances in the U-19 World Cup, 2020. He ended the tournament as the highest wicket-taker with 17 wickets in 6 matches at an unworldly average of 10.6. The young leg-spinner has a lethal googly in his repertoire which he frequently used to bamboozle batsmen in the World Cup
The teenager also impressed a great dea, with his dead-eye accuracy and his skill-set on the whole. Initially, he had faced rejection in the U-16 and U-19 trials. However, in 2018 he impressed players and coaches at Rajasthan Royals when he turned up as a net bowler for them. Fast forward a couple of years to the U-19 World Cup and Bishnoi showed that he was a quick learner who had improved in leaps and bounds.
Even before his exploits for India in the World Cup, he had grabbed the eyeballs in the Youth One-Dayers, picking up 12 wickets in 7 matches at an economy of 4.37 which helped him in getting picked up by KXIP for IPL 2020 at a handsome price of ₹2 cr. The performances he has put up in his fledgling career so far promises more from this highly talented teenager and he will certainly be one to look out for in IPL 2020.