IPL 2018: Kings XI Punjab hopes for change in fortune this season

New Delhi: Even as the Kings XI Punjab prepare for the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) under new skipper Ravichandran Ashwin, they will hope for a turn around in their fortunes after failing to live up to expectations which they raised at the start of each of the past 10 seasons.

The Punjab-based franchise managed to reach the top four only on a couple of occasions. They finished third in the inaugural edition of IPL in 2008 and then came agonisingly close to winning the title in 2014 but were denied by Kolkata Knight Riders.

In the previous edition, they missed the play-offs by a whisker to eventually finish at the fifth spot.

Ahead of the 2018 player auction, the Mohali-based side made its strategy quite clear of revamping a faltering team, by retaining only left-arm spinner Axar Patel.

They however, used their right-to-match cards at the auction to keep some of their best players from the previous season in Australian Marcus Stoinis, South African David Miller and India discard Mohit Sharma.

Besides roping in a new captain, the franchise invested heavily on hiring India opener Lokesh Rahul at a whopping Rs 11 crore along with Australian T20 specialists Andrew Tye and Aaron Finch.

In terms of experience, the Kings XI squad can boast of the likes of West Indian power-hitter Chris Gayle and veteran Yuvraj Singh, who were both bought at their base prices of Rs 2 crore each.

Punjab also have a solid middle-order with some proven Indian talent in their side. Domestic heavyweights Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair and Manoj Tiwary will likely to add depth to the Kings batting unit.

With Rahul doubling up as the wicketkeeper, Punjab’s all-round options will be shouldered mainly by Marcus Stoinis, Yuvraj and Axar. Youngsters Mayank Dagar and Manzoor Dar can also be handy options with both the bat and ball.

However, Punjab’s bowling looks frail on paper despite being led by off-spinner Ashwin. With Axar in company, Afghanistan’s Mujeeb Zadran may have to wait for his opportunity.

Punjab’s major cause of worry is the lack of big names in the pace department barring Tye. With young Ankit Rajpoot, the domestic duo of Mohit Sharma and Barinder Sran will have a chance to use this season as a platform to get back in the national reckoning.

Squad: Ravichandran Ashwin (Captain), Axar Patel, Yuvraj Singh, Karun Nair, Lokesh Rahul (WK), Chris Gayle, David Miller, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Manoj Tiwary, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb Zadran, Barinder Sran, Andrew Tye, Akshdeep Nath, Ben Dwarshuis, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar, Manzoor Dar.

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