Kings XI Punjab may have failed to reach the playoffs in IPL 2017, but they played some high-quality cricket throughout the tournament and hence were exciting to watch. The team had several flaws but even then they ended up winning seven of their from 14 games and were at number five on the points table, courtesy of some brilliant individual performances.
Kings XI is fortunate to have several highly consistent players in their ranks that are ideal for the formation of a strong T20 unit. Hence, the team management will be looking forward to retaining some players for the next year as these players add tremendous value to the Punjab franchise.
We look at the five most valuable players whom Punjab should retain for the next IPL season.
#1 Shaun Marsh
Kings XI have always favoured Shaun Marsh due to his consistency and solid technique with the bat. The left-hand batsman is one of the very few cricketers in the IPL who has played for the same franchise throughout their IPL career and Punjab will be keen on continuing their relationship with Marsh.
Courtesy of his strong technique, the left-hand batsman brings solidarity to the top order and is known to play big innings. With 2477 runs under his belt the Aussie brings immense experience into the team and his strike rate of 132.74 means he can score runs at a brisk pace as well.
The orange cap winner of the inaugural IPL season, Marsh has the ability to bat according to the situation. He can survive the threat of both pace and swing with ease and is also capable of hitting big shots when required to. His stable head and strong mindset make him a highly reliable player and hence he is the perfect option for the role of sheet anchor.
#2 Glenn Maxwell
Glenn Maxwell is a quintessential T20 player. He combines brute power and innovation to play big shots and has the ability to change the course of a match in the span of few overs. Additionally, he can roll his arm to sneak in a couple of overs and his fielding skills are of the best standards.
Maxwell is the vital ingredient of Punjab’s all-out aggression batting philosophy and his high impact batting makes him an indispensable member of any batting unit. One of the qualities that separate him from the other finishers is the ease with which he plays spin as well as pace.
As he manufactures immense power in his shots, he doesn’t get baffled if the surface lacks pace and at the same time his quick hand-eye coordination allows him to neutralise the threat of express pace.
Maxwell has hit the most number of sixes for Punjab and has also captained the team for the 2017 season – something he has been complimented for. Although his effectiveness of his captaincy skills can be argued, he can break into any T20 team in the world based on his batting skills.
#3 Hashim Amla
Because of his monk-like patience in Test matches, Hashim Amla was considered to be a wrong fit for the T20 format. But after smashing 17 sixes and scoring two centuries in 2017, the South African batsman has established himself as a perfect candidate for the opening position.
Amla’s batting philosophy in T20 cricket is simple. Make the most of the powerplay overs by manoeuvring the gaps, then rotate the strike during middle overs and go all guns blazing in the death overs.
The right-hander plays low-risk cricket and yet bats at decent strike rate and hence is an ideal T20 player. His consistency at the top order offers the liberty to other batsmen to play their natural game. Punjab’s batting line up is loaded with several big hitters and Amla’s presence at the opening position helps in bringing the best from these hitters.
Amla has played only 16 IPL games but has extensive experience of international cricket, and has batted in diverse conditions. So, along with his batting, he can also offer effective guidance to other young batsmen.
A lethal combination of aggression and patience, Amla will always find a place in a T20 side as he brings solidarity and consistency in the top order.
#4 Axar Patel
In the star-studded Punjab team, the presence of Axar Patel is often unnoticed. However, in the last three seasons, this left arm spinner has remained a key contributor to the team’s success. His crafty and accurate spin bowling has ensured that the absence of an experienced international spinner is not felt and to add to that he also has the ability to hit it big in the slog overs and contribute effectively in the batting department.
Axar’s all-round performance brings balance in Punjab’s unit and hence the team management will be eager to retain him.
The Kings XI bowler often flies under the radar because he doesn’t pick up wickets in heaps. In fact in his 59 matches so far he has picked up four wickets in an innings only once. But that does not decrease his value as his main role is to put brakes on the scoring rate and he has been highly successful in that.
He often bowls flat and close to the stumps which decrease his wicket-taking opportunities but at the same time, it makes him difficult to hit. Hence, he is effective in the powerplays as well as during death overs.
In batting, he averages 20.20 which is a decent number in T20 format. This year, Maxwell and Co. often promoted him up in the batting order and Axar didn’t disappoint as in 2017 his batting average jumped to 28.37.
Axar’s bowling skills can alone make him a part of Punjab’s T20 unit while his batting abilities further cement his position in the side.
#5 Sandeep Sharma
In the pursuit of strengthening their batting unit, Punjab recruited overseas batsmen by the dozen and this made their bowling somewhat vulnerable. Whilst Axar spearheaded their spin department, the pace unit lacked venom.
And this is when Sandeep Sharma rose to the occasion. The little known right-ram pace bowler was backed by the team management and he proved them right by delivering consistent performances. In 2017 he polished his swinging skills and has become a serious threat in conditions that assist bowlers.
Even on flat tracks and in death overs, Sandeep becomes effective due to his pace variations and accuracy. With 71 wickets in 59 matches and an impressive economy rate of 7.77, this bowler should be Punjab’s number one choice in pace department when they retain players.