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KXIP to PBKS: Will the new name change Punjab Kings’ fate in IPL 2021?

Source: IANS

Perhaps Shakespeare’s most memorable quote is from Romeo and Juliet: ‘What’s in the name?’ The beauty of this quote lies in its contradiction. While we agree on its universality, it doesn’t stop brands or sports teams from changing names, hoping it will alter their destiny for good.

Punjab Kings, earlier known as Kings XI Punjab, did the same this season after sticking with its earlier incarnation for more than a decade. The rationale behind the move, as explained by co-owner Ness Wadia, was to reinvigorate and rebrand the franchise.

In 13 years, Punjab Kings have managed to go past the group stage only twice: they were the semi-finalists in the inaugural edition and finished as the runner-up in 2014. Other than that, they have been unable to escape from the cesspool of mediocrity.

What went wrong in IPL 2020?

Under KL Rahul, Punjab finished sixth in IPL 2020 after going down in a couple of matches they had no business losing.

They dominated the games in part but often failed to wrap up from winning positions. They couldn’t score one run in three balls against Delhi Capitals or defend 223 against Rajasthan Royals. But their most agonising defeat of the season came against Kolkata Knight Riders when they failed to chase 22 off 18 balls with nine wickets in hand.

A conservative opening pair followed by an inconsistent middle-order, coupled with a lack of premium pacers apart from Mohammed Shami, did not help them. They have tried to address these shortcomings by releasing some of their marquee players, the most notable being Glenn Maxwell. They also released Sheldon Cottrell, Jimmy Neesham, Karun Nair, and Krishnappa Gowtham, among others.

Will 2020 be the season of Punjab Kings?

Going into the auction with the most inflated purse, Punjab Kings splurged a whopping INR 14 crores on Jhye Richardson. His compatriot Riley Meredith was acquired for INR 8 crores. These inclusions will definitely add that extra zing in the pace department.

Dawid Malan brings much-needed expertise to their unreliable middle-order. Chris Gayle featured in just seven matches in 2020, and he is likely to make way for Malan this season. Shahrukh Khan and Moises Henriques add a shade of flair and flamboyance that was in scarcity last season, especially in clutch moments.

Along with the change of name, a definite shift in the philosophy of team management can be sensed. In its 13 years of existence, the franchise has seen nine coaches and 12 captains. They are quick to hire, and quicker to fire if the results are not up to the mark. This season, however, PBKS decided to persist with the same captain-coach pair from 2020.

Over the last few seasons, Rahul has cemented his name among the most consistent performers of the league. However, his style – an overcautious approach that goes against the zeitgeist of the modern game – has not served Punjab’s cause.

Rahul won the Orange Cap in 2020. However, he struck at 129, the lowest season strike rate with a 600-run cut-off. Rahul needs to adopt a ruthless approach from the beginning itself, even if it means a potential drop in his batting average.

The hunt for the elusive IPL trophy will continue when they take on Rajasthan Royals in their opening fixture, on 12 April. Will this be the season of triumph for Punjab Kings? Only time will tell, but there’s no denying the fact that they have assembled one of the most balanced squad, at least on paper.

An avid reader but a lazy writer, Ravi Raj watches cricket through the lens of conflict and struggle. Writing about the game keeps him sane from the humdrum of daily life. When not obsessing over cricket, you can find him buried in literature, philosophy or heavy metal.

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