IPL 2017: Kings XI Punjab's explosive batsmen, handy all-rounders could carry them all the way
For the 2017 edition of the IPL, Kings XI have assembled a strong overseas contingent and picking the right combination will be a challenge for Maxwell and the team management.
After two consecutive seasons at the bottom of the table, Kings XI Punjab have once again opted for a new captain in the hope it will change their fortunes and secure them their elusive Indian Premier League (IPL) title.
For the 2017 edition of the world's most lucrative Twenty20 tournament the Mohali-based franchise have opted for Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell as their new captain. The 'Big Show' comes with a fearsome reputation as a master blaster in white ball cricket but his returns in the last two IPL seasons have actually been quite poor. The hard-hitting right hander has scored only 324 runs in 22 matches with two half centuries in the last two seasons but Kings XI will be hoping the maverick Australian can return to form and break their title drought.
Despite never having captained a side in any format, Maxwell has been entrusted with the leadership ahead of the likes of Murali Vijay (whom he has replaced), David Miller (who Vijay replaced mid-tournament in 2016) and experienced captains Eoin Morgan and Darren Sammy.
For the 2017 edition of the IPL, Kings XI have assembled a strong overseas contingent and picking the right combination will be a challenge for Maxwell and the team management. Their batting line-up in particular is very strong and boasts of an overseas contingent of Hashim Amla, Martin Guptill, Shaun Marsh, Maxwell, Miller, Morgan, Sammy, and Marcus Stoinis. Unless Kings XI opts to play New Zealander Matt Henry they will be heavily reliant on their Indian players in the bowling department.
With the likes of Varun Aaron, Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma leading the pace department, along with T Natarajan, it is likely Kings XI will rely on their Indian seamers while stocking the batting line up with overseas stars.
That's not to say they don't have strength in batting amongst their Indian contingent either, with Murali Vijay, Wriddhiman Saha, Manan Vohra, as well as all-rounders Gurkeerat Singh and Axar Patel being among the best of the local talent.
As with all IPL franchises, team selection and finding the right balance will be extremely tough for Kings XI and rookie captain Maxwell. By picking an overseas player as captain it leaves only three other spots for the international stars to fight for. So do they fill them with batsman or all-rounders? Will Maxwell prefer his Australian teammates Marsh and Stoinis over established international names such as Morgan, Guptill, Amla or Miller?
Will Henry play to strengthen the bowling? Or will Kings XI try and balance the side by playing all-rounders Stoinis and Sammy alongside Maxwell?
Working out the team balance will be a fine art, and getting it right will play a crucial role in whether Kings XI are able to rise off the bottom of the table to become title contenders in 2017.
The skill is definitely there in the squad with players like Guptill, Maxwell, Miller, Morgan, Sammy, and Vohra all capable of extreme power hitting while Vijay, Amla, Saha and Marsh add class to the batting.
While bowling looks to be Kings XI's weakness on paper, there is still plenty of dangerous bowlers in the squad. Aaron's raw pace can be a handful if he gets it right, especially in Mohali where the pitch usually offers more pace and bounce than other places in India, while swing bowler Sandeep has shown himself to be a threat with the new ball across many editions of the IPL.
Mohit Sharma brings some international experience to the bowling attack, along with death bowling variations while youngster Natarajan will add pace bowling support along with Anureet Singh.
Patel will lead Kings XI's spin bowling stocks but will be ably supported by off-spinning all-rounders Maxwell and Gurkeerat, and young leg-spinner KC Cariappa who comes for a high price for a relatively inexperienced player.
New Zealander Henry is the only frontline overseas bowler in the squad but he has plenty of international experience and the Black Caps quick bowls with good pace and bounce which could be effective in Mohali. Whether he plays or not could be determined by how much faith Maxwell and the team management are willing to place in the Indian bowlers.
Kings XI Punjab will be hoping their fourth Australian captain, after Adam Gilchrist, David Hussey and George Bailey, can finally bring them some success.
Leading a side packed with explosive batting, some handy all-rounders, and a group of talented local bowlers, Maxwell will be expected to lead from the front in his captaincy debut and will be hoping to improve his recent record.
The fans of Kings XI Punjab have been starved of success since their side made the 2014 final and they will be hoping the 'Big Show' can leave his stamp on the team and take them one step further than their runners-up finish three years ago.
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