IPL: Can Punjab Kings shed the under-achievers’ tag this time?

The Shikhar Dhawan-led team has the firepower, but needs to click when it matters

Shikhar Dhawan (photo: Shikhar Dhawan/Instagram)
Shikhar Dhawan (photo: Shikhar Dhawan/Instagram)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It’s going to be a decade this season that Punjab Kings (erstwhile Kings XI Punjab) had their best finish in IPL with a runners-up spot in 2014. A name change, several rounds of change of personnel have failed to bring about any change of luck - so much so that they have not had an entry to the play-offs after that.

While one hopes that the red shirts, with their talismanic co-owner Preity Zinta, have good reasons to smile this time given the number of instances when they have flattered to deceive – the fans will be wary. They have a decent line-up on paper with senior pro-Shikhar Dhawan as captain and the decorated Trevor Bayliss as coach and the owners should let the team management decide on a settled line-up early in the season.   

 It often escapes our notice that Dhawan, now 38, is actually the second highest all-time rungetter in IPL history with 6617 runs. Out of national reckoning for quite a while, he still manages to bring out his A game at the IPL time but then – it remains to be seen if his affable, somewhat laidback style of captaincy can work the magic in the pressure cooker atmosphere of IPL.

 There is no dearth of explosive hitters in the batting line-up with Dhawan, Jonny Bairstow (who missed last season with an injury) and Rilee Roussow, and allrounders like Liam Livingstone, Sikandar Raza and Sam Curran at their disposal. Wicketkeeper-batter Jitesh Sharma, now in the national reckoning, has also showcased his strong finishing capabilities.

They also boast of a quality pace attack, where the addition of Harshal Patel with a hefty price tag, to their powerful bowling arsenal of Kagiso Rabada, Arshdeep Singh and Sam Curran offers them plenty of variety. England allrounder Chris Woakes is also a part of the roster but given the cap of four foreigners in the playing XI, it remains to be seen as to how many starts he can actually have.

In a competition where spinners play a pivotal role in steering their team to victory, Punjab Kings seem to have limited options in this department. With only Rahul Chahar and Harpreet Brar among their prominent spinners, PBKS aren’t exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to frontline spinners.

The duo managed to take 17 wickets in the IPL 2023 collectively and will be hoping to produce better returns in 2024. The squad does have a couple of part-time spin options in Livingstone and Raza but their economy rates of 13.4 and 9.9, respectively, demonstrate why these options cannot be relied upon.

 Here’s with the hope that Punjab Kings does a lot better than an eighth-place finish among 10 teams last time.

Owners: Ness Wadia, Mohit Burman, Karan Paul & Preity Zinta

Captain: Shikhar Dhawan

Coach: Trevor Bayliss

Best finish: Runners-up, 2014

Shikhar Dhawan (c), Matthew Short, Prabhsimran Singh, Jitesh Sharma, Sikandar Raza, Rishi Dhawan, Liam Livingstone, Atharva Taide, Arshdeep Singh, Nathan Ellis, Sam Curran, Kagiso Rabada, Harpreet Brar, Rahul Chahar, Harpreet Bhatia, Vidwath Kaverappa, Shivam Singh, Harshal Patel, Chris Woakes, Ashutosh Sharma, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, Shashank Singh, Tanay Thyagarajann, Prince Choudhary, Rilee Rossouw.