Inability to convert sound starts has been Punjab Kings’ problem as they look for an elusive IPL crown.
This time they have a new captain in Mayank Agarwal, who has been a consistent performer for Punjab, especially over the last couple of seasons.
But consistency has been Punjab’s weakness. The skipper has to ensure that silly mistakes and unforced errors, something that cost them playoffs berths in the last two seasons, are not repeated.
Mayank does have seniors to guide him — the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Jonny Bairstow and Kagiso Rabada are new recruits while Anil Kumble’s presence as head coach will matter a lot.
Their batting. There’s no KL Rahul, but Dhawan and Bairstow have the shots and the ability to guide the team through a tricky phase.
Players such as Rishi Dhawan, Shahrukh Khan and Odean Smith are all capable of striking meaty blows and can play the finisher’s role. Rishi and Shahrukh had an excellent domestic season with the white-ball for Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, respectively, and should be more motivated for bigger contributions this season.
Liam Livingstone of England is another utility player. Primarily a batsman, his part-time spin could prove effective in these conditions.
In terms of bowling, Rabada’s ability to adapt to Asian conditions and strike early even on flat wickets is another positive for the team. What Rabada needs is a little bit of support from the likes of Arshdeep Singh, Sandeep Sharma and Odean.
Lack of established spinners. Leg-spinner Rahul Chahar and left-arm orthodox Harpreet Brar are capable of doing an impressive job, but they are not bowlers who can intimidate the opposition.
Mayank and Kumble also need to decide how they would handle 19-year-old quick Raj Bawa, the hero of the final of this year’s U-19 World Cup, where India emerged champions. The IPL is a whole new ball game for the youngster.
Key men: Mayank Agarwal, Jonny Bairstow and Kagiso Rabada