Punjab have been the smartest buyers in this years' auction and a hungry Sehwag could just be the spark they need to turn their fortunes around. (Kings XI Punjab)
After making a promising start in the inaugural edition of the India Premier League, Kings XI Punjab have failed to put up a consistent show in the last six editions. Their best performance came in 2008 when they reached the semis, and after that they have not been able to cross the league stage.
Leading up the 2014 edition, the franchises played their cards smartly at the players' auction. The revamped squad looks strong and promising with a good mix of domestic and foreign players, in which the name of former Delhi Daredevils' skipper Virender Sehwag grabs the eyeballs.
Sehwag was bought by KXIP for Rs. 3.2 crore at the auction, which has been touted by many as a very intelligent buy considering his burning desire to make an India comeback.
Besides Sehwag, names like Mitchell Johnson, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell and Thisara Perera add a lot more muscle to the squad, despite the four-foreigner cap on the playing XI.
Here's a look at how the KXIP squad shapes up:
With Sehwag, Maxwell, Bailey, Shaun Marsh, David Miller, Cheteshwar Pujara and Mandeep Singh in the team, Punjab have one of the strongest batting line-ups for T20 cricket. In IPL 6, Mandeep and Marsh were the leading scorers for Punjab, closely followed by Miller, who took them to some thrilling victories last year. Maxwell, who was the most expensive player of 2013 IPL, was bought by Punjab for Rs 6 core this year. He is currently known to be one of the most destructive players in limited-overs cricket and his blistering knock of 73 off 34 balls against Pakistan in the World Twenty20 makes that claim stronger.
Australia's T20 skipper, Bailey, who was brought by the Punjab franchise for Rs 3.25 crore, will lead the Punjab this year, after Sehwag expressed his desire to play just as a player.
Australia missed Johnson at World T20 but, the Ashes hero will be back running in as Punjab roped him in at the auction after Mumbai chose not to go for him. KXIP spent Rs 6.5 crore for him and would be expecting him to repeat his Ashes performance in IPL 7. In last year's edition, Johnson played a pivotal role in Mumbai's maiden triumph, taking 24 wickets. He will lead the Punjab attack and surely is a big fillip to the franchise's hopes of turning it around.
Left-armer Murali Kartik is the only specialist spinner in the squad, which leaves no doubt that he will be overburdened and Punjab may sorely miss back-up. Gurkeerat Singh, Maxwell and Miller may provide some cushion but only on a part-time basis and may come a cropper against quality batsmen.
Sehwag is still seen by his fans as the same player who single-handedly won India many matches. But his career has gone downhill since getting axed from Team India a year ago. He had a poor Ranji Trophy season, but his 109 for Marylebone Cricket Club and a string of decent scores in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy recently should give a lot of confidence to him and KXIP.
Kings XI Punjab have had the problem of not peaking in big matches and succumb to pressure situations. With Gilchrist not around, they will surely miss an inspirational leader if not an attacking batsmen. Perhaps Sehwag will have to take that mantle to guide the youngsters and lead by example.
Most of their big names are expatriates; and with Bailey as skipper, they will be left to choose just three more, which is where picking the best eleven could become a problem for Punjab.
Maxwell and Johnson will be the men to watch out for. While one can hit the ball out of the park on a regular basis, the other can torment any batting line-up on his day.
Punjab's past performances have not been up to the standards they would have set for themselves. Their best performance came in 2008 when they reached the semis, but one can't look much beyond that on their graph. In 2008, they won 10 of their 15 matches and their worst performance came in 2010 when they lost 10 of their 14 matches.
Chances this year:
This year could be the best chance for Punjab to improve their record with some big names added to the squad, but a lot will also depend on a host of domestic talent like Mandeep, Gurkeerat, Parwinder Awana and Rishi Dhawan. Their performance could well turn to be the key to make it to the knockouts.
Squad: David Miller, Manan Vohra, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, George Bailey (c), Virender Sehwag, Rishi Dhawan, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shaun Marsh, Cheteshwar Pujara, Laxmipathy Balaji, Beuran Hendricks, Thisara Perera, Gurkeerat Singh, Murali Kartik, Sandeep Sharma, Mandeep Singh, Akshar Patel, Parvinder Awana, Shardul Thakur, Anureet Singh, Shivam Sharma, Karanveer Singh