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April 3, 2012
Kings XI Punjab have never believed in big names. In fact, they have just one millionaire on their roaster in Australian David Hussey ($1.4m). Their most expensive buy at this year's player auction was former Pakistan allrounder Azhar Mahmood for $200,000. Their most popular face is the 40-year old Adam Gilchrist.
Punjab's maxim has been: we do not need the names, but we can still win. Last year they proved that theory correct when an unknown Paul Valthaty, who was clinging to the edges of domestic cricket before the tournament, catapulted himself into the front pages of newspapers and television screens with his batting exploits.
But Punjab, the 2008 semi-finalists (which remains their best showing so far), is the only team from the original bunch of eight, which has failed to evolve. Ownership issues disrupted their development in the first three years of IPL. But last year, the franchise, after having successfully staved off a threat from the BCCI to remove it from the IPL, decided to put fresh plans in place. The biggest positive was the appointment of Gilchrist as the leader. He led Punjab to a fifth place finish last season, an improved showing over the 2010 season when they had ended at the bottom of the pile with only four wins.
This year, Gilchrist has been appointed the coach-cum-captain. Two more Australians - Joe Dawes, who is the Indian bowling coach and former Australian fielding consultant Mike Young, have been hired as Gilchrist's assistants.
The franchise has also strengthened its domestic vaults. Ramesh Powar, who played for Punjab in first three seasons, is back to play the role of lead offspinner while the medium pace pair of Harmeet Singh and Parvinder Awana have been roped in to add more teeth to the fast bowling line-up.
Like nervous teenagers, Punjab have always struggled to find their feet early in the tournament. In 2010, Punjab's scored only one win in their first eight matches, which came in a tied game after a one-over eliminator. Last year, they started with a defeat, won three matches on a trot but followed it with five defeats in a row.
Adam Gilchrist: Gilchrist is one of the two 40-year-old players* in the tournament. A hardworker, a good man-manager who leads by example, Gilchrist has been rightly appointed by Punjab as the coach-cum-captain. Last year, he inspired the likes of Valthaty to aspire for greater heights and helped Punjab finish at the middle of the points table. Needless to say, Gilchrist will push on the accelerator once again.
David Hussey: The younger of the Hussey brothers did turn heads last season but for the wrong reasons. He managed only 64 runs in eight matches, leaving Punjab fans and critic's wondering if he was worth the $1.4 million price tag. But Hussey is a pedigree player: he is the highest scorer in Twenty20 cricket (4270 runs) and also topped the batting charts for the Melbourne Stars in the inaugural season of the Big Bash League earlier this year. A brilliant fielder, who can keep a tight line with his offbreaks, Hussey's biggest suit is his experience, making him a dangerous proposition.
Shaun Marsh: Marsh has been Punjab's most consistent and dependable batsman. By ending fourth on the IPL run charts last year, Marsh proved that his heroics in the inaugural edition of the tournament, where he finished as the highest scorer, was no fluke. Even though Marsh is yet to find a firm foothold in the Australian Test side, in the IPL he manages to slip into the zone easily and gives Punjab the right platform to build and chase totals.
Big names in
Azhar Mahmood: Do not get deceived by his age: Mahmood, the only Pakistan player in IPL, is 37, but he is still the sturdy allrounder he was for Pakistan when he made his debut at 21. Mahmood, who now lives in England, was the player of the season for Kent in the County Championships. But Mahmood's best has come in Twenty20 cricket. He finished as Kent's highest scorer in the domestic Twenty20 competition with a century. With his experience, Mahmood can easily provide solidity to Punjab's middle order and play the leading allrounder's role in the absence of the injured Stuart Broad.
Joe Dawes: Dawes, who was recently appointed as India's bowling coach, replaced fellow Australian and former quick Jason Gillespie, who moved to Yorkshire as head coach. Dawes will take this opportunity as a good learning experience to understand Indian players, conditions and culture. In exchange, his coaching experience with Queensland is bound to come handy for the youngsters at Punjab.
Big names out
Dinesh Karthik: Punjab sold him to Mumbai Indians for an undisclosed but substantial sum, reportedly good enough to offset the money spent on Hussey and Gilchrist.
Below the radar
Piyush Chawla Chawla was Punjab's joint highest wicket-taker last season and plays important role with his attacking legbreaks and a decent googly at any point in an innings. His bowling and his ability to play influential cameos with the bat, makes Chawla an important player for Punjab and a good man to help Gilchrist with his local knowledge.
Abhishek Nayar Nayar has been one of the most attractive allrounders on the domestic circuit but frequent injuries have slowed his progress. This year, Nayar played with renewed vigour, showing maturity and patience during Mumbai's Ranji Trophy campaign. He will be one of the regulars in the playing eleven and will look to make an impression, with an eye on the allrounder's spot in the Indian team for World Twenty20 competition later this year.
Availability : Stuart Broad: The England allrounder underwent a scan for the calf-strain he suffered during the first Test of the Sri Lanka series and is reportedly expected to be fit in two weeks' time.
Ryan Harris: Punjab's best fast bowler last season, Harris is currently on national duty with Australia in the Caribbean, participating in the Test series against West Indies. He will join the team from April 29.
2011 in a tweet: Late starters, recovered to make headlines with their unexpected resilience, but lost the momentum again towards the end.
April 13, 08:15 GMT: The article earlier mentioned that Adam Gilchrist was the only 40-year old in IPL. This has been corrected.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Nagraj Gollapudi
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