Having found guilty of chopping and changing far too many times, Punjab Kings will be relying on World Cup winning coach Trevor Bayliss and new skipper Shikhar Dhawan to shed their perennial underachievers tag this IPL season. (More Cricket News)
The reputed Australian coach knows a thing or two about winning, having guided England to the 2019 ODI World Cup and KKR to titles in 2012 and 2014.
Punjab Kings owners have roped him in with the sole objective of lifting the elusive IPL trophy.
Inconsistency has hurt Punjab badly over the years and Bayliss will have to find a way to optimise the performance of a squad that looks formidable on paper. Punjab finished sixth in the past four seasons and reached their only final in 2014.
Punjab went into the 2023 mini auction with the maximum purse and spent most of their money on England all-rounder Sam Curran, making him the costliest buy in IPL history at Rs 18.50 crore.
The other players they bought were Sikandar Raza (Rs 50 lakh), Harpreet Bhatia (Rs 40 lakh), Vidwath Kaverappa (Rs 20 lakh), Mohit Rathee (Rs 20 lakh) and Shivam Singh (Rs 20 lakh).
Matthew Short has been drafted into the squad as a replacement player for the injured Jonny Bairstow.
Punjab have plenty of firepower in the batting unit despite the absence of Bairstow. The presence of Dhawan, Liam Livingstone, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Jitesh Sharm, Curran, Short, who impressed in the latest Big Bash edition, make them a force to be reckoned with.
Curran, player of the 2022 T20 World Cup, is expected to play every game and contribute in both the departments.
The core group remains the same as last year and that gives them much needed balance in the bowling department. Curran, Kagiso Rabada and Arshdeep Singh can do the job both with the new ball and death overs while Rahul Chahar and left-arm spinner Harpreet Brar are capable of striking in the middle overs.
The team needs to finalise Dhawan's opening partner in Bairstow's absence. Sacked skipper Mayank Agarwal had pushed him down the order to accommodate Bairstow at the top last year.
Dhawan will have the option of choosing between Short, Prabhsimran Singh and Curran, who opened for the franchise back in 2019.
Chahar is their frontline spinner and if he and Brar have a couple of bad games, Punjab will not have a lot to choose from.
Dhawan, who was among the consistent performers of the team last year, has been handed the leadership responsibility. The southpaw will be aiming to revive the fortunes of his team as well as himself.
A good IPL with the bat and as captain can pave the way for a national comeback though the 37-year-old finds himself on the wrong side of 30s. He being handed a BCCI on Sunday will also give him hope.
Tamil Nadu batter Shahrukh Khan is yet to prove himself in the middle-order and will be itching to do that in his third season.
Liam Livingstone, who has not played any competitive cricket since December 1 due to a knee injury, can change the game with his big hitting. Punjab will be hoping he has fully recovered from his injury. His spin, both leg break and off-spin, has also proved to be handy.
Sri Lankan Rajapaksa is another one who can take the game away from the opposition and he showed glimpses of that last year. He will be looking to build on that performance.
Squad: Shikhar Dhawan (captain), Matthew Short, Prabhsimran Singh (wk), Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Shahrukh Khan, Sikandar Raza, Raj Bawa, Rishi Dhawan, Liam Livingstone, Atharva Taide, Arshdeep Singh, Nathan Ellis, Baltej Singh, Sam Curran, Kagiso Rabada, Harpreet Brar, Rahul Chahar, Harpreet Bhatia, Vidwath Kaverappa, Shivam Singh, Mohit Rathee.