Kings xi Punjab has just not been punching their weight for years now, with 2014 being the only exception. With one of the most destructive middle order batting pair in Miller and Maxwell, one wonders why they haven’t been able to churn out better performances than what they have done so far.
There isn’t much change in terms of the composition of the squad this time. But there has been a bit of a shake-up at top with Murali Vijay making for Glen Maxwell as the captain. Now this move is significant .Though it will be a while before one give give a shout out to the think-thank, on the face of it, it certainly looks a winner on two counts. With due respect to his cricketing acumen, Vijay doesn’t come across as someone who can inspire a team as a leader. Besides, he hasn’t been playing a lot of t20s in the last one year especially with the national selectors preferring him only for test cricket. One should also not forget that the responsibility of captaining the side was thrust upon him, midway through the last season owing to Miller’s struggles with the bat. It would be better to leave him to himself to rediscover the explosive streak he once possessed while plying his trade for csk under Dhoni’s captaincy.
On the other hand, captaincy could just be the shot in the arm for someone like Glen Maxwell. He had a rare blip in form last season and looked scratchy in the few games he managed to score. But he has never been more hungrier as a batsman as he is currently and this has to be viewed with backstory of the run-in he had with Matthew Wade last year, when playing for his state team Victoria. “I think probably batting below the wicketkeeper is also a bit painful as well. I think the wicketkeeper should be batting at seven unless you’re trying to squeeze an extra bowler into your line-up”, he said. He feared it was reducing his chances of making it back to the test squad. But a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. He has earned his baggy green back, scored a hundred and even played match saving innings at Ranchi against India in the recently concluded test series. One would hope, for Punjab’s sake, that Maxwell will step up this year and make it count. They simply cannot afford to have Miller and Maxwell misfiring together.
Punjab will also be comforted by the fact that their latest buy, Eoin Morgan, would be available for most of the season. He is crucial if kings are to nurse any hopes of making it to the playoffs. Another exciting option they have up their sleeves is Marcus Stoinis. Considered to be an X factor of sorts, he could turn the game on its head with both bat and ball. After the whirlwind hundred he scored against the Kiwis in the odi at Auckland, even the Australian national selectors seem to be warming up to the idea of considering him for the all-rounder’s slot in their test team. He was, in fact, recently rewarded with a call-up for the test series in India when Mitchell Marsh had to abandon the tour midway.
Punjab’s main concern would be the quality of their pace bowling battery this year. They will have to do without their most experienced international bowler Mitchell Johnson. His ability to give those early breakthroughs was instrumental in most of their wins.
Punjab’s chances have never been as bright as this year. They will have to rely heavily on their domestic talent in Anureet Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Shardul Thakur and Varun Aaron.
Punjab certainly has their task cut out this year!