Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) come into the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2020) after having made a series of changes to their squad.
KL Rahul has taken over as captain, with his predecessor Ravichandran Ashwin shipped to the Delhi Capitals. Sheldon Cottrell, Jimmy Neesham and Chris Jordan are all new faces in the side, with Glenn Maxwell making a return to the KXIP setup after a short stint in Delhi.
KXIP don’t go into IPL 2020 as favourites by any stretch of the imagination, and various experts and former cricketers have claimed that they are contenders for the wooden spoon. However, led by a young captain in Rahul, the Mohali-based franchise cannot be ruled out.
In this article, we carefully analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the KXIP squad ahead of IPL 2020.
KXIP in IPL 2020: Strengths
#1 KXIP have a settled, dangerous opening combination
KXIP have one of the best opening combinations in IPL 2020 – Chris Gayle and KL Rahul.
The duo, who played together at RCB, complement each other perfectly and get along very well. While Rahul has shown that he can switch gears at any point in the innings, Gayle is coming off a superb IPL 2019 season in which he showed that he still has a lot of cricket left in him.
Rahul and Gayle might cause opposition bowlers a number of headaches in the powerplay overs.
#2 KXIP have a number of capable batsmen in the middle order
Following Rahul and Gayle are a series of capable middle-order batsmen, making the KXIP batting lineup a formidable one to say the least.
Mayank Agarwal, who would definitely prefer to open given his success in the role for the Indian Test team, is expected to come in at No. 3. After him, the likes of Mandeep Singh, Karun Nair, Glenn Maxwell, Nicholas Pooran and Sarfaraz Khan are options to take up roles in the middle order.
The West Indian was the only batsman to score a hundred in the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League, while Maxwell has shown signs of form while playing for Australia against England.
#3 KXIP have built their team around their captain
Another notable feature of this KXIP squad is the number of Karnataka players in it, and this is largely due to captain KL Rahul and coach Anil Kumble calling the shots.
KXIP have chosen to surround Rahul with a number of players that he is familiar with, including even Gayle, and this will make his job as the skipper much easier. Much like MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings and Gautam Gambhir’s Kolkata Knight Riders, a core that is familiar to the captain will greatly help KXIP.
KXIP in IPL 2020: Weaknesses
#1 KXIP’s Indian pace attack has no depth
Apart from Mohammed Shami, who himself only established himself on the IPL scene last season, KXIP have no recognised Indian pacers. The young Ishan Porel is the only other option at their disposal, and the lanky pacer has no IPL or international experience.
This means that KXIP will have to field an overseas fast bowler – Hardus Viljoen, Sheldon Cottrell and Chris Jordan being their choices, which could in turn hamper the inclusion of their quality overseas batters.
KXIP’s obvious lack of depth in the pace department could cost them dearly.
#2 KXIP lack world-class, wicket-taking spinners
Murugan Ashwin, Krishnappa Gowtham and Mujeeb Ur Rahman are the only three IPL-tested spinners at KXIP’s disposal, and all three are restrictive bowlers who look to stem the flow of runs. As a result, KL Rahul doesn’t have a go-to wicket-taking option that he can call upon.
The young Ravi Bishnoi is certainly a wicket-taker, but he is highly inexperienced and might take time to adjust to the demands of the IPL. Karnataka left-armer spinner Jagadeesha Suchith is among the other options, who don’t exactly inspire confidence.
#3 Apart from KL Rahul, KXIP’s Indian batting contingent don’t have good IPL numbers
Apart from KL Rahul, KXIP’s Indian batting contingent – comprising of Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal, Mandeep Singh, Deepak Hooda and Sarfaraz Khan – don’t have attractive IPL numbers in recent seasons, even though they are all quality batsmen.
Nair played only 1 game last season, while Agarwal has scored more than 200 runs in only 3 of his 9 IPL campaigns. Mandeep has managed only 2 fifties in the last 6 seasons, and has batted lower down the order for most of the recent past. Hooda’s numbers in the IPL are nightmarish, and while Sarfaraz showed great promise with RCB, his impact on games has dwindled since.
KXIP in IPL 2020: Opportunities
#1 KXIP have an excellent record in the UAE
With 5 wins in 5 games in the UAE leg of IPL 2014, KXIP have a stellar record in the venue for this year’s season. Much of their success was down to Glenn Maxwell’s astonishing hitting, and the Australian will be keen on replicating his performances from that campaign upon his return to the franchise.
In a tournament that is happening in unforeseen circumstances and in unfamiliar conditions, KXIP will take great heart from their UAE record, and this is an advantage that only they have to capitalise upon.
#2 KL Rahul can throw his name into the hat for the Indian captaincy
With Virat Kohli’s leadership greatly under the scanner, the post of Indian captain has been one of the most widely discussed topics in the recent past. These talks have further been given weight by the retirement of former Indian captain MS Dhoni.
Names like Rohit Sharma and Shreyas Iyer have been doing the rounds as possible replacements for Kohli, and with a good showing in IPL 2020, Rahul could throw his name into the hat.
At the helm of an IPL side for the first time ever, the Karnataka batsman can show that he has it in him to lead a team. Rahul’s calm head and measured approach have drawn praise from many corners of the cricketing fraternity, and he could truly make a name for himself as a leader in IPL 2020.
#3 Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair are among those with a point to prove
Agarwal and Nair have had contrasting international careers. While the former has made an opening slot in Test cricket his own, the latter was unceremoniously dropped after scoring a triple ton.
Both batsmen will be motivated in different ways. Agarwal will look to penetrate the incredibly strong white-ball setup, while Nair will want to earn a Test recall at the very least. And under a captain who will back them to the hilt, both batsmen have the opportunity to prove a point to the selectors.
KXIP in IPL 2020: Threats
#1 KXIP’s overseas slots might cause selection dilemmas
As mentioned earlier, the lack of depth in the pace department will mean that KXIP have to field an overseas pacer. The other overseas options are Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Jimmy Neesham and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
All 5 players can make genuine cases as to why they must be part of the playing XI, but KXIP will be able to pick only three. This could turn out to be a major issue with regard to team balance, and a poor performance or two might result in the lack of a settled combination.
#2 KL Rahul’s inexperience as captain might cost KXIP
While Rahul is likely to perform well as captain, his lack of experience in the role and the impact that it might have on his batting are factors that must be taken into account.
Rahul is the opening batsman of the team, and might not be able to play with the same freedom now that he has the tag of captain next to his name. His inexperience might also cost KXIP dearly in crunch situations, with him not having someone experienced such as R Ashwin to call upon.
This will be a bigger issue if KXIP reach the IPL 2020 knockouts, but if they do, Rahul will have done a pretty good job already.
#3 Will the Glenn Maxwell gamble pay off for KXIP?
Glenn Maxwell was KXIP’s biggest buy in the IPL 2020 auction, and they are certain to build their middle order around the explosive batsman.
While this has worked in patches for KXIP in the past, with the UAE leg of the 2014 IPL being one such instance, it might not be a reliable option given the Australian’s inconsistency and frequently poor shot selection.
KXIP invested heavily in Maxwell’s return, and it remains to be seen if the gamble pays off in IPL 2020.