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Feature

Punjab Kings boast batting muscle but bowling lacks international experience

Except for Kagiso Rabada, none of their bowlers are regulars for their national sides

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
21-Mar-2022
Captaincy is a new responsibility for Mayank Agarwal - will he swim or sink?  •  BCCI

Captaincy is a new responsibility for Mayank Agarwal - will he swim or sink?  •  BCCI

Where they finished in 2021

For the second straight season, Punjab Kings finished sixth out of eight teams with 12 points.

Potential XI

1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Mayank Agarwal (capt), 3 Liam Livingstone, 4 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 5 Shahrukh Khan, 6 Raj Bawa, 7 Odean Smith, 8 Harpreet Brar, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Rahul Chahar

Player availability

Kagiso Rabada will miss Kings' opening match because he is involved in the ODI series against Bangladesh. Jonny Bairstow is in the West Indies with England's Test side and is likely to miss the first two games. Bairstow could also be unavailable for the final, if Kings make it till there, as England's Test series against New Zealand begins on June 2.

Batting

Kings have an experienced left-right opening pair in Shikhar Dhawan and new captain Mayank Agarwal. That will be followed by Liam Livingstone and Bairstow. Both overseas batters can take apart all types of bowling, making it a top-four as good as any in the IPL. Shahrukh Khan and Odean Smith ensure the firepower continues, while Harpreet Brar and Rabada provide the depth. Globetrotting allrounder Benny Howell is a back-up for Smith.
Kings' batting line-up is a T20 intent machine, and the appointment for power-hitting specialist Julian Wood as batting consultant is just another indication of how they want to approach this season.
If at all there is a weak link, it's the No. 6 position. Kings can go with either Raj Bawa or Rishi Dhawan. While Bawa was one of the stars at the recent U-19 World Cup and Rishi has domestic form behind him, both are unproven at this level.
Another potential concern could be the lack of back-ups for the main batters. Apart from Bairstow and Livingstone, Kings' only other overseas batter with international experience is Sri Lanka's Bhanuka Rajapaksa.

Bowling

Kings will rely heavily on Rabada. In fact, he is the only bowler in the squad who is a regular for his national side. But there are plenty of Indian domestic options, Arshdeep Singh arguably the frontrunner for a place in the XI. The other contenders with prior IPL experience are Sandeep Sharma and Ishan Porel.
Rahul Chahar and Brar will shoulder the responsibility in the spin department. Chahar can trouble batters with his quick legbreaks, while Brar (6.04) had the best economy among those who bowled more than ten overs in IPL 2021. However, both Chahar and Brar turn the ball in to left-hand batters, which could create bad match-ups for Kings. Livingstone, who can bowl both offspin and legspin, may offer some respite, though.

Young players to watch out for

Raj Bawa, a left-hand middle-order batter and right-arm hit-the-deck seamer, was the Player of the Match for his 5 for 31 against England at the 2022 U-19 World Cup final. Before that, he had also posted the tournament's highest individual score - an unbeaten 162 at a strike rate of 150 - against Uganda. According to Hrishikesh Kanitkar, India's coach at the World Cup, Bawa's standout trait is to remain "composed in all types of situations". The IPL will test that quality to its fullest.
Vidarbha's left-hand opener Atharva Taide is another one to keep an eye on. In the latest Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, India's domestic T20 tournament, Taide scored 270 runs at an average of 54.00 and a strike rate of 137.05. He had six 30-plus scores in seven innings and was among the top-ten run getters in the tournament. His left-arm orthodox spin also earned five wickets. But with Agarwal and Shikhar in the side, it's difficult for him to find a place in the XI.

Coaching staff

Anil Kumble (head coach), Julian Wood (batting consultant), Damien Wright (bowling coach), Jonty Rhodes (assistant coach)

Poll

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo