Having changed their name ahead of the season, Punjab Kings (PBKS) would be hoping that it brings about a change in their fortunes as well, as they look to shrug off the disappointments from last season and start afresh when they meet Rajasthan Royals (RR) in their IPL 2021 opening match in Mumbai on Monday. Punjab Kings, despite fighting hard for most of the last season, lost several matches by close margins in the first half of the tournament and it came to haunt them badly as they failed to make it to the knockout stage, despite winning most of their matches towards the business end.
The franchise let go of some big names and also replaced a few players with some big-ticket signings ahead of the season. They splashed a whopping Rs 14 crore for Australia fast bowler Jhye Richardson and also spent Rs 8 crore for the services of a relatively inexperienced player like Riley Meredith.
Here are the Punjab Kings (PBKS) players to watch out for:
KL Rahul was one of the standout performers for the Punjab-based franchise in the last edition. He scored 670 runs at an average of 55.83 and won the Orange Cap. Since joining Punjab three years back, KL Rahul’s IPL career has sky-rocketed to a whole new level, with him scoring in excess of 500 runs in each of the last three editions. Rahul also holds the record for highest individual score by an Indian batsman in the IPL when he smashed 132 not out against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) last year. Irrespective of his side’s performance, one thing that’s certain is that when KL Rahul scores runs he wins games single-handedly.
The Australia fast bowler was one of the costliest picks at the mini-auction and is expected to get an extended run to live up to his price tag. Yet to make his IPL debut, Richardson has picked up 82 wickets from 67 matches in the domestic T20 matches. He also has a decent economy of less than eight runs an over and the thing that stands out is his strike rate of 17.70, meaning he picks up a wicket nearly every three overs. Richardson was the most successful bowler at the BBL 2021, picking 29 wickets from 17 matches and if he carries on the same form, Punjab Kings will be a tough team to beat this season.
It was no coincidence that Punjab’s winning streak last season coincided with Chris Gayle’s inclusion in the playing XI. After warming the bench during the first half of the season, Gayle proved his worth once again despite batting at an unusual number three position. In just seven matches, the West Indies batsman scored 288 runs at an impressive average of 41.14. With 4,772 runs from 132 matches, Gayle is the third most successful overseas batsman in the tournament’s history, behind David Warner and AB de Villiers. Moreover, he is the only player in the world to hit over 1000 sixes in the shortest format, which speaks volumes of the danger he possesses with the bat.
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