Punjab Kings (PBKS) have had a similar, inconsistent start to their campaign this year to how they went in the last season of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
KL Rahul and company have won only three of their eight matches played in the IPL 2021 so far and will be heading into the UAE leg precariously placed, needing to win almost all their matches for a playoff spot.
With a slippery middle-order and bowling attack with obvious holes in it, PBKS struggled to cope with the challenges posed by the neutral venues in Mumbai, Chennai and Ahmedabad and now need something special to turn their fortunes around.
Rahul’s men will resume their campaign with a game in Dubai on September 21 against the Rajasthan Royals (RR).
PBKS squad changes for second leg of IPL 2021
OUT: Riley Meredith, Jhye Richardson, Dawid Malan
IN: Nathan Ellis, Adil Rashid, Aiden Markram
Current PBKS Squad: KL Rahul (c), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Mandeep Singh, Prabsimran Singh, Nicholas Pooran, Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, Murugan Ashwin, Ravi Bishnoi, Harpreet Brar, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh, Ishan Porel, Darshan Nalkande, Chris Jordan, Aiden Markram, Adil Rashid, Shahrukh Khan, Nathan Ellis, Moises Henriques, Jalaj Saxena, Utkarsh Singh, Fabian Allen, Saurabh Kumar.
Probable PBKS Playing XI: KL Rahul (c & wk), Aiden Markram, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Deepak Hooda, Shahrukh Khan, Fabian Allen, Chris Jordan, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh
Batsmen: KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Aiden Markram, Shahrukh Khan
PBKS depend heavily on the top four batsmen. But only Rahul and Mayank among the quartet have been consistent this year. While Rahul has made 331 runs, Mayank has made 260 from their seven innings each. The two batters have had a strike-rate of 136.21 and 141.30, respectively.
Gayle was explosive at times but largely off the boil during the Indian leg, with his 178 runs coming at an average of 25.42 and strike-rate of 133.83. Fellow West Indies player Nicholas Pooran performed worse in the first half and made just 28 runs from his seven innings.
There is a strong chance that Pooran could be replaced in the XI by South African batsman Aiden Markram. An elegent right-hand batsman, Markram has come in as a replacement Dawid Malan in the side and could be positioned at the top alongside Rahul, with Mayank potentially dropping down to No.4 with the aim to try and exploit spinners in the opposition camp.
In many ways, young lower middle-order batsman Shahrukh was PBKS’ biggest positive when the IPL 2021 was played in India. The young right-hander struck only 107 runs from his eight innings but given the situations he batted in and the batting ability he showcased in them, his performances were very encouraging.
Wk-bat: KL Rahul
Captain Rahul is expected to double up as a wicketkeeper, having donned the gloves in most of the matches for his side. If he feels the need to take some rest, Rahul can ask Pooran to take the gloves.
All-rounders: Deepak Hooda, Fabian Allen
Hooda has always been a promising utility cricketer, who can hit the ball a long way and also bowl some tight overs. Consistency has been an issue with him but PBKS are expected to keep their trust intact in Hooda.
Allen featured in only two games for PBKS earlier this year but the West Indies spin all-rounder is definitely a cricketer to watch out for with his powerhitting skills and useful spin bowling.
Bowlers: Chris Jordan, Ravi Bishnoi, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh
In their first-choice bowling attack, interestingly, PBKS’ two least experienced players have been their most impressive performers. Bishnoi has been one of the emerging young talents of the IPL with his unorthodox wristspin bowling, while right-arm seamer Arshdeep has performed like a dark horse in all stages for his team.
But to really bounce back in the campaign, PBKS need both Shami and Jordan to perform better with the ball than they did last season or even earlier this year in India. While Shami’s 8 wickets came at an economy rate of 8.16, Jordan conceded 8.44 runs per over for his three scalps.