IPL 2020 – Will leaving out Chris Gayle give Kings XI Punjab better balance?

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Where they finished in 2019: Sixth, tied on points with Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad (12 each), but behind both on net run-rate.

Potential XI: Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (capt & wk), Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, K Gowtham, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mohammed Shami, Sheldon Cottrell, Ravi Bishnoi

Batting: If the Kings XI take the bold call of having a first XI without Chris Gayle, they might just achieve a better balance in the side. Their two best overseas batsmen are Nicholas Pooran and Glenn Maxwell, and they’ll need their other two overseas spots for bowlers.

A top order that has KL Rahul alongside Pooran and Maxwell is one that is capable of taking pitches and conditions out of the equation. Both Rahul and Pooran have the ability to shift gears seamlessly and bat deep, while Maxwell provides the ballast.

Sarfaraz Khan can be a powerful finisher too. He was in top form in the Ranji Trophy, and with the IPL originally scheduled right after that tournament, the timing was perfect. That he has the talent has never been in doubt, but it remains to be seen if Khan has managed to keep his fitness and training on track during the extended break. If he has, that batting line-up looks very powerful indeed.

The expected slowness of pitches in the UAE should not be as much of a factor for this Kings XI batting group that is adept at tackling both pace and spin.

Bowling: Kings XI have an above-average spin department, led by Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who is coming off an excellent CPL, where he was the second-highest wicket-taker and gave up runs at just 5.29. That means he’s got a lot of game-time and a lot of recent experience of bowling on tired pitches that host a number of matches in a short time-frame, and both could be key points at the IPL.

The all-round talents of K Gowtham should see him be part of the attack too, while Sheldon Cottrell brings in the left-arm element and should take the new ball alongside Mohammed Shami.

Kings XI have the exciting Ravi Bishnoi, who set the Under-19 World Cup alight with his legspin, to throw in the mix too, and other spin options in M Ashwin and Harpreet Brar.

But, while Ishan Porel is a good addition, the rest of the back-up seamers are pretty raw and untested. If Shami can’t make the XI for whatever reason, Kings XI will be hard-pressed for options to replace him.

Another area they might struggle in is death bowling. They have Chris Jordan, but including him would mean no room for Cottrell, who is a greater wicket-taking threat.

Young player to watch out for: The highest wicket-taker at the Under-19 World Cup at the start of this year, Bishnoi drew widespread admiration at the tournament. He has proven difficult to score off, while also being a constant wicket-taking threat with loop, drift, a wicked googly. Bishnoi turned 20 a couple of weeks before the IPL’s start, and this could be among the best opportunities he gets. He’ll have the advantage of conditions, with pitches expected to be slow and likely to be subjected to unprecedented wear and tear. He’ll also have the advantage of working under Anil Kumble, a different type of legspinner to Bishnoi but one who knows more about the art than most in the world. Whether Bishnoi gets a long enough run remains to be seen, but the setting is ideal for the exciting young legspinner.

Coaching staff: Anil Kumble (head coach), Andy Flower (assistant coach), Wasim Jaffer (batting coach), Jonty Rhodes (fielding coach), Charl Langeveldt (bowling coach)



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