Assessing the Punjab Kings 2021 IPL Squad

By Ben Morris in Cricket
| March 5, 2021 9:54 am PDT

Aside from changing the franchise’s name, the Punjab Kings have had a number of important decisions to make during the offseason – and releasing Glenn Maxwell was certainly one of them.

Having added nine new players to their roster, the Punjab Kings ended up being the busiest team at the 2021 IPL auction.

Riley Meredith became the most expensive uncapped overseas buy in Indian Premier League history, with the Kings spending a whopping 8 crores on the Aussie bowler. Notable names like Dawid Malan, Jhye Richardson, and Moises Henriques were also acquired during the auction.

With a strong homegrown core to match the recent overseas imports, is the 2021 Punjab Kings squad strong enough to finally end the franchise’s wait for an IPL title?

Below, I assess the Punjab Kings squad for the 2021 IPL season. After detailing the Kings’ overseas stars and discussing Punjab’s best player, I also look at the Punjab Kings’ strongest XI in 2021.

Assessing the 2021 Punjab Kings Squad

Let’s start by taking a look at the Punjab Kings squad for 2021. Some notable names have been retained from last season, with nine fresh faces joining the franchise.

All the new buys are highlighted in bold below.

Batsmen

  • Chris Gayle
  • Dawid Malan
  • KL Rahul (c & wk)
  • Mandeep Singh
  • Mayank Agarwal
  • Nicholas Pooran (wk)
  • Prabsimran Singh
  • Sarfaraz Khan

Retaining KL Rahul – last season’s Orange Cap winner – was obviously a top priority for coach Anil Kumble and his staff this year. The Punjab captain was the IPL’s leading run-scorer in 2020, although only two of his team-mates – Mayank Agarwal and Nicholas Pooran – managed to join him in the top 20.

To avoid becoming over-reliant on Rahul, the Punjab Kings 2021 squad has been bolstered by the arrival of Dawid Malan – the world’s number-one ranked T20I batsman.

After choosing to release Glenn Maxwell during the offseason, it was imperative that Punjab bought another big-hitter at the 2021 IPL auction – and Malan fits that bill perfectly.

We all know that Chris Gayle is capable of. But with the Universe Boss now in his early 40s, he is obviously no longer the force that he once was. Still, Gayle holds the record for most sixes in IPL history. Indeed, he only really deals in maximums.

MOST SIXES IN IPL HISTORY
Player Innings Sixes
Chris Gayle 131 349
AB de Villiers 156 235
MD Dhoni 182 216
Rohit Sharma 195 213
Virat Kohli 184 201

All-Rounders

  • Darshan Nalkande
  • Deepak Hooda
  • Fabien Allen
  • Harpeet Brar
  • Jalaj Saxena
  • Moises Henriques
  • Saurabh Kumar
  • Shahrukh Khan
  • Utkarsh Singh

Six of Punjab’s nine buys at the 2021 IPL auction are viewed as all-rounders, with Fabien Allen and Moises Henriques joining the franchise as overseas players.

The Kings’ roster for 2021 has also been strengthened by the addition of four homegrown players – Jalaj Saxeba, Saurabh Kumar, Shahrukh Khan, and Utkarsh Singh. However, it could be difficult for any of them to nail down a place in Kumble’s preferred XI.

Following stints at RR and SH, Deepak Hooda joined Punjab for the 2020 season and impressed throughout his maiden campaign for the franchise. The 25-year-old will now be hoping to cement his place in the Kings’ team this year.

All in all, I wouldn’t say that Punjab’s all-rounder options are the strongest in the competition, especially when you compare them with teams like CSK and MI.

Bowlers

  • Arshdeep Singh
  • Chris Jordan
  • Jhye Richardson
  • Ishan Porel
  • Mohammed Shami
  • Murugan Ashwin
  • Ravi Bishnoi
  • Riley Meredith

Mohammed Shami was Punjab’s most prolific bowler in the previous campaign, taking 20 wickets overall. But with players like Ravi Bishnoi and Chris Jordan struggling for consistency in 2020, it was clear that Punjab’s squad for 2021 needed better bowling options.

Thankfully for the Kings, they were able to acquire not one, but two highly rated Australia internationals in the auction.

Jhye Richardson heads into his debut IPL season on the back of a series of standout displays for the Perth Scorchers in BBL 10, while Riley Meredith shone for the Hobart Hurricanes at the same tournament. Punjab’s roster now feels a whole lot stronger with the Aussie duo on board.

In fact, Richardson finished as the Big Bash League’s leading wicket-taker this year.

Analyzing Punjab’s Overseas Players in 2021

Pooran, Gayle, and Jordan have all been retained from last season, but the Punjab Kings’ 2021 squad has five new overseas players to get familiar with. I assess the Kings’ overseas options below.

Nicholas Pooran Is a Big Threat

Pooran smashed one of the fastest half-centuries in IPL history last season, reaching 50 runs from just 17 deliveries. On top of that, only three players hit more sixes than the powerful West Indian batsman in 2020.

When it comes to discussing the Punjab Kings’ overseas players in 2021, Pooran is right up there with the very best. Having ended the previous campaign with an average of 35.30 and a strike rate of 169.71, the 25-year-old looks set to play a key role for his side once again this year.

As the table below shows, Pooran’s hitting power was unrivalled in the Indian Premier League last season.

LONGEST SIXES (2020 IPL SEASON)
Player Distance (m)
Nicholas Pooran 106
Nicholas Pooran 105
Jofra Archer 105
Sanju Samson 102
MS Dhoni 102

Is Chris Gayle Past His Best?

Gayle only featured in seven games for the Kings last season. But after racking up a total of 288 runs and producing a high score of 99, there is absolutely no denying that he can do an important job for Punjab this year.

Of course, at 41, Gayle’s best days are behind him. Still, if he can string together a series of big scores, he could easily fire his team into the playoffs.

Can Dawid Malan Take the IPL By Storm?

Believe it or not – Dawid Malan has never actually played in the Indian Premier League before. But having sealed the status of the world’s No. 1 T20I batsman recently, many IPL franchises were understandably interested in acquiring his services this year.

Eventually, Punjab won the race to secure Malan’s signature at the auction, spending 1.5 crores on the England international. The Kings’ 2021 squad has undoubtedly been strengthened by Malan’s inclusion, but can he shine on the biggest stage in T20 franchise cricket?

Here are the ICC’s current T20I batting rankings.

  • Dawid Malan (England) – 915
  • Lokesh Rahul (India) – 816
  • Aaron Finch (Australia) – 808
  • Babar Azam (Pakistan) – 801
  • Glenn Maxwell (Australia) – 701

What Can Fabien Allen Bring to Punjab?

Allen is another newcomer to the Indian Premier League. The Jamaican all-rounder has become a key performer for the West Indies in the shorter formats of the game of late – and now he will aim to become one of the Punjab Kings’ top overseas players.

The St Kitts and Nevis Patriots have benefited from Allen’s quality in the Caribbean Premier League since 2017. If he can continue to develop his game in the IPL, Allen could be a Punjab Kings star for years to come.

Jhye Richardson Is Ready Shine

It is easy to forget that Richardson is still just 24. I mean, it feels like the Aussie paceman has been around for a while now, doesn’t it? He made his BBL debut for the Scorchers all the way back 2016 – and now he’s getting a shot at the IPL.

If Richardson’s performances throughout the recent Big Bash season are anything to go by, the Punjab Kings have a seriously good bowler in their ranks. It could even be argued that Richardson is good enough to challenge for the Purple Cap this year.

Chris Jordan Must Prove Himself

After struggling with both bat and ball last season, Jordan’s spot in the Kings’ 2021 IPL squad was by no means certain. However, the Punjab franchise ultimately opted to retain his services for the upcoming campaign.

It feels as though the England international has a lot to prove this year. He will obviously be eager to repay the faith shown in him by Kumble and his staff, but that could end up working against him.

Moises Henriques Adds a Touch of Class

It’s safe to say that Henriques is no stranger to the IPL. In fact, the 34-year-old Aussie has already played for four different franchises over the years. But having last featured for SH back in 2017, he has spent a sizeable chunk of time away from the Indian Premier League.

Henriques will now be looking to re-establish himself as a genuine force in T20 cricket with the Kings. He could initially struggle to nail down a place in Kumble’s XI, but if shows what he can do, there is no reason when he can’t become an important overseas player for Punjab in 2021.

MOISES HENRIQUES’ OVERALL IPL RECORD
Matches Not Outs Runs High Score Average Strike Rate
57 16 969 74* 28.50 128.17

Can Riley Meredith Live Up to His Price Tag?

It’s official – Riley Meredith is the most expensive uncapped overseas buy in IPL history. He may not have played in the Indian Premier League yet, but the Kings ended up spending a whopping 8 crores on the Australian in the auction.

In my honest opinion, spending that kind of money on anyone is a risk. But to pay 8 crores for somewhat of an unknown quantity – especially in IPL terms – is a massive gamble.

I’m more than happy to be proved wrong, although Meredith is going to have to do something very special to live up to his mammoth price tag.

Who Is the Kings’ Best Player in 2021?

Don’t get me wrong – a number of Punjab’s new additions have the potential to become the franchise’s best player this season. Guys like Richardson and Malan could quiet easily hit the ground running and take the IPL by storm in 2021.

Having said that, one man clearly stands out from the rest – KL Rahul.

Not only did Rahul finish the previous season 52 runs clear at the top of the Orange Cap leaderboard, but he also broke a number of records along the way. Indeed, his 132* against RCB is the highest score by an Indian player in IPL history.

In 14 matches last term, Rahul smashed 670 runs, averaging 55.83. As well as carrying his bat on two occasions, he also notched up five fifties, along with his memorable century against RCB.

Rahul’s vast range of shots allows him to score runs all over the pitch, making him one of the toughest batsmen to bowl against in the Indian Premier League. If he picks up where he left of last season, there will be no stopping him.

In my eyes, KL Rahul is undoubtedly the best player for the Punjab Kings in 2021.

What Is Punjab’s Strongest XI in 2021?

Predicting the Punjab Kings likely XI for the 2021 IPL season isn’t straightforward. There are a number of fringe players that could force their way into the team this year, although there are also a few certainties.

Kumble’s selection decisions have been made harder by the arrival of a host of overseas stars, but I’m sure that he will be keen to keep his homegrown talents happy, too.

Personally, I believe this is Punjab’s best XI in 2021.

  • 1. KL Rahul (c & wk)
  • 2. Nicholas Pooran
  • 3. Dawid Malan
  • 4. Shahrukh Khan
  • 5. Mayank Agarwal
  • 6. Mandeep Singh
  • 7. Deepak Hooda
  • 8. Murugan Ashwin
  • 9. Jhye Richardson
  • 10. Mohammed Shami
  • 11. Riley Meredith

As you can see, there are plenty of big-name omissions here – most notably Chris Gayle. The West Indian legend has been a loyal servant for the franchise over the years, but it could be time for him to step aside and let the next generation flourish in 2021.

Elsewhere, overseas players like Allen, Henriques, and Jordan are all likely to find it hard to break into Kumble’s XI this year.

Is the Punjab Kings 2021 Squad Good Enough?

There is no hiding from the fact that Kumble and co. have made some bold decisions of late.

Choosing to release players such as Glenn Maxwell, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Sheldon Cottrell, and Jimmy Neesham was a brave move – and it’s difficult to predict whether the risk is going to pay off.

If Rahul picks up where he left off last term and newcomers like Malan, Richardson, and Meredith hit the ground running, Punjab could qualify for the playoffs. But having analyzed the Kings’ squad for the 2021 season, I can’t see them ending their wait for an IPL title this year.

Do you think the 2021 Punjab Kings squad is strong enough to challenge for the Indian Premier League title? Let me know in the comments section below.

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