Can Team Punjab go a step further in Indian T20 League 2021?
If Team Delhi’s journey to the final of the Indian T20 League last season was of great satisfaction, then the downfall of Team Punjab, despite putting up some massive performances, was surely a huge upset.
Despite having an opening batsman like KL Rahul, who won the orange cap last season, and a pacer like Mohammed Shami, who was the joint sixth-highest wicket-taker last season, Team Punjab could only finish sixth in the points table.
The Punjab management has never had a reputation of being a retainer. Hence, it wasn’t surprising to see the 2014 finalists approaching the Indian T20 League 2021 auction with a huge purse of Rs 53.2 crore after releasing as many as seven players from the previous season.
Team Punjab squad 2021
As was expected, Team Punjab went in full throttle during the auction purchasing the likes of Jhye Richardson for Rs 14 crores, Riley Meredith for Rs 8 crores, Dawid Malan for Rs 1.5 crores and even shelling out as much as Rs 5.25 crores for the uncapped Tamil Nadu batsman Shahrukh Khan.
Full Squad: KL Rahul, Arshdeep Singh, Chris Gayle, Darshan Nalkande, Harpreet Brar, Mandeep Singh, Mayank Agarwal, Mohammed Shami, M Ashwin, Nicholas Pooran, Sarfaraz Khan, Deepak Hooda, Ishan Porel, Ravi Bishnoi, Chris Jordan, Prabhsimran Singh, Jhye Richardson, Shahrukh Khan, Riley Meredith, Moises Henriques, Dawid Malan, Jalaj Saxena, Fabian Allen, Saurabh Kumar, Utkarsh Singh
Strengths & Weaknesses
Team Punjab’s strength will undoubtedly be their batting. With the addition of Dawid Malan to their squad, Punjab now have the world no. 1 and world no. 6 (KL Rahul) ranked ICC T20I batsmen in their line-up, apart from the likes of Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran and Chris Gayle. The import of the eccentric Shahrukh Khan adds further excitement to an already strong line-up that can destroy any bowling line-up in the tournament. And it goes without saying that Punjab will be relying more on their batting to get the job done.
However, there is a reason why Punjab have never won the Indian T20 League title and could reach the playoffs just twice in the 13-year history. The team could never achieve the balance required to win the coveted trophy and that weakness remains.
After losing out on a playoff spot for losing some close matches, Punjab decided to get rid of Australian power-hitter Glenn Maxwell and not replace him with anyone prominent. Not only that, but Punjab’s bowling still contains a gaping hole. Apart from Mohammad Shami, the team lacks a bowler with a sting. While Riley Meredith has turned heads with his wicket-taking ability in first-class cricket and domestic T20s but his inexperience in Indian conditions make him a liability in this ruthless T20 tournament. While Chris Jordan is yet to find his footing in the Indian T20 League, young Ravi Bishnoi suffers from inexperience as well.
Who can be the highest run-scorer for Team Punjab
While Dawid Malan might have gained some credibility during England's tour of India that concluded recently, Punjab's best bet to score runs will always be KL Rahul. The Bangalore-lad garnered a whopping 670 runs last season with an average of 55.83 and he further approaches the tournament on the back of a good tally of 177 runs in three ODIs against England.
Who can be the highest wicket-taker for Team Punjab
Unfortunately, Punjab have only one candidate who is likely to be the contender for the purple cap in the upcoming season - Mohammad Shami. While the pacer might not be India's first-choice in T20Is, but he has been in some form in the shortest form of late. Shami finished with 20 wickets in 14 matches last season and is expected to be the wrecker-in-chief for Punjab this season as well.
Where will Team Punjab finish in Indian T20 League 2021
If looked purely through numbers, Punjab missed an opportunity to qualify for the 2020 playoffs as they squandered it mid-season. Despite coming to the tournament with one of the strongest batting orders, Punjab still lacks an adaptive captain in KL Rahul and economic bowlers. While Maxwell couldn’t do the job for Punjab last season, the failure to replace him has also left a huge void in the squad. We expect Team Punjab to finish outside the top four.
Feature Image Courtesy: AFP/ Noah Saleem