Revamped Punjab Kings hope to break playoffs jinx


Revamped Punjab Kings hope to break playoffs jinx

Purnima Malhotra


Punjab Kings broke the bank for Sam Curran, will they break the playoffs jinx? PBKS were the semifinalists in the opening season and runners-up to KKR in 2014 but have been underwhelming in most of the remaining 13 attempts. More so in the last four editions, finishing all at sixth spot, just one win away from progressing to the knockouts, and exiting the league stage with more what-ifs hanging over their head. In naming Shikhar Dhawan as their skipper for IPL 2023, Punjab have made a seventh captaincy switch in the last eight years and would be hoping the southpaw leads from the front despite his tapering numbers. They have also announced a massive reboot of the coaching staff with Brad Haddin and Charl Langeveldt joining new head coach Trevor Bayliss in the club’s desperate bid for that elusive first trophy.

While consistency or stability had been a long-standing issue at Punjab Kings over the past few years, they do have their core set this time which will revolve around their two star Indian retainees – Dhawan and Arshdeep Singh – and a gun overseas contingent of Liam Livingstone, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Sam Curran and Kagiso Rabada. In fact, Jonny Bairstow’s injury-forced withdrawal might have actually been a blessing in disguise, sparing them some foreign-player selection headaches. However, for that to be true, the Indian batters have to fire. Dhawan hasn’t had a great year and neither did Shahrukh Khan. This could leave the batting heavily reliant on the foreign players which makes Kings’ go-big-or-go-home approach from last season a double-edged sword.

Where they finished last year: Sixth, of course!

What did they try to address in the mini-auction?

After splurging INR 18.5 crore on Curran to fill the genuine allrounder vacancy left with the axing of Odean Smith, Punjab made a few base-price signings including Zimbabwe allrounder Sikandar Raza (INR 50 lakh) who will likely come into the picture as the pitches start to tire out. Barring that, the reinforcements in both the spin and pace department are all uncapped and lack big-match experience. On the Indian batting front, Punjab have signed top-order batter Harpreet Singh Bhatia (INR 40 lakh) but he’d likely be the back up for Prabhsimran Singh, who was the third-highest run getter at the 2022-23 Syed Mushtaq Ali and hence perhaps a front-runner to open alongside Dhawan.


Shikhar Dhawan (c), Harpreet Singh Bhatia, Liam Livingstone, Atharva Taide, Matthew Short, Sikandar Raza, Shahrukh Khan, Mohit Rathee, Harpeet Brar, Sam Curran, Rishi Dhawan, Baltej Singh, Prabhsimran Singh, Bhanuka Rajapaksa (wk), Jitesh Sharma (wk), Raj Bawa, Kagiso Rabada, Nathan Ellis, Rahul Chahar, Arshdeep Singh, Shivam Singh, Vidhwath Kaverappa

Player to watch: Sam Curran, who else?

Punjab went into the 2023 player auction with the second highest purse of INR 32.2 crore and spent 57.45% of that on the English all-rounder, making him the most expensive purchase in IPL history. Every run he scores and every wicket he picks will be quantified. Curran though has had a season to remember, picking up his first T20 fifer in Blast 2022, England’s first T20I fifer in the subsequent World Cup and finishing the global event as the PoTM in the final and PoTT for his 13-wicket haul in six innings at an impressive average of 11.38. No wonder his name triggered a massive bidding war with as many as six franchises showing interest. Mumbai Indians were the ones to start before stepping out for a bit and ultimately being outbid by Punjab, who entered the fray only at INR 13.5 crore.

Injuries and availability:

A left leg and ankle injury suffered in a golfing accident in late 2022 continues to keep Bairstow on the sidelines. He’s been replaced with uncapped Australia and Adelaide Strikers’ allrounder Matthew Short, who is the most recent BBL Player of the Tournament with 458 runs (2nd highest) at a strike-rate of 144.47, and 11 wickets at an economy of 7.13.

Given South Africa’s rescheduled three-match ODI series against the visiting Netherlands side ends only on the night of April 2nd, PBKS will also be without the services of pacer Kagiso Rabada for at least their opening fixture the day before. Their next game is an away fixture in Guwahati on April 5 and Rabada may have to hit the ground running.

Possible XI and potential Impact Player tactic:

Shikhar Dhawan (C), Prabhsimran Singh, Bhanuka Rajpaksa, Liam Livingstone, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Shahrukh Khan, Sam Curran, Harpreet Brar/Rishi Dhawan, Kagiso Rabada, Arshdeep Singh, Rahul Chahar

*Nathan Ellis starts ahead of Rabada due to the latter’s international commitments at the start of IPL 2023

The opening partner of captain Dhawan, if one among the Indian uncapped players, could be the one frequently getting subbed. PBKS could look to use the finisher in Atharva Taide or maybe even top-order batter like Prabhsimran Singh/Harpreet Singh Bhatia if batting first and then replace with Rishi Dhawan or Harpreet Brar (whoever misses out on the first-XI depending on conditions) or one among the pace options of Vidwath Kaverappa and Baltej Singh.

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