In the 2020 Indian Premier League, the middle-order was at times a cause for concern for Punjab Kings, with the franchise shuffling around the team regularly to find that winning combination. This time around, the team management seems to have addressed that concern, shrewdly picking up a host of all-rounders at the 2021 IPL player auctions.
The team roped in Moises Henriques, Fabian Allen, Shahrukh Khan, Jalaj Saxena and Utkarsh Singh at the auctions, to further strengthen that all-rounder berth which already boasted the likes of Deepak Hooda and Harpreet Brar. With so many players now at their disposal, Anil Kumble and co. seem to have a fresh problem of picking the right XI to suit their combinations this IPL.
Here’s a look at what each of these all-rounders add to the team, and what the Punjab Kings management could be pondering on ahead of IPL 2021.
Moises Henriques joins the side just a couple of months on from captaining the Sydney Sixers to a second consecutive Big Bash League title. He may be 34, but shows no signs of slowing down, still running between the wickets as quick as ever, and doesn't shy away from diving and bruising his body if required to save his side some runs on the field.
As someone who has been there and done it all before, Moises has the advantage of experience by his side, and would be unfazed by the pressure of the IPL. Secondly, as a seam bowling all-rounder, Henriques is sure to be an asset for a competition like the IPL which has sometimes struggled to find enough players of his breed.
The swashbuckling West Indian cricketer couldn’t break into the Sunrisers Hyderabad team last season, but this year with a new franchise, his fortunes could turn for the better. Allen is a naturally aggressive batsman, and his cameos lower down the order could be like gold dust for Punjab Kings this season.
Apart from that, he offers reliability with the ball, with his ability to keep a tight length and deliver four economical overs whenever called upon. Fabian Allen is also one of the best active fielders in the world, and one of those trademark catches or fielding efforts could end swaying games in favour of Punjab Kings this season.
He made the world take notice of his destructive cameos throughout the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and now come the IPL, Shahrukh Khan would be eager to keep that form going. The 25-year-old hitter from Tamil Nadu has earned a name for himself as a finisher in the Indian domestic circuit, and it was that reputation that tempted Punjab Kings to splash the cash for Shahrukh Khan.
Coach Anil Kumble revealed that Shahrukh reminded him of Kieron Pollard from all those years back when he worked with the Mumbai Indians, and if the Tamil Nadu batter can have anything close to the impact the big West Indian all-rounder has had for his franchise, Punjab Kings are sure to have a strong 2021 IPL season.
It took some time for Deepak Hooda to nail his spot in the team last season for Punjab Kings, but once he had his foot in the door, he proved his mettle with stellar knocks after Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. Hooda will be playing his seventh straight season in the IPL this year, and seems to have mastered the art of performing under pressure.
The 25-year-old has been a reliable batsman for whichever team he has represented in the past, and is agile on the field as well, expertly shepherding one of the deep boundaries for his side. Hooda wasn’t required to bowl much by Punjab last season in the IPL, but if called upon, he can be a tricky customer to handle with his deceptive off-spinners.
One of the most consistent all-round performers at the domestic circuit, it is a tad bit unfortunate that Jalaj Saxena is yet to make his mark in the IPL. The 34-year-old Kerala all-rounder has been picked by three franchises in the past, but is yet to make his debut in the competition.
This season however he could finally be given that chance at Punjab Kings, who would be hoping to benefit from the stability and experience he brings to the franchise. Jalaj tends to score quickly and close out games, and his myriad variations with the ball in hand will surely make him a batsman’s nightmare come IPL 2021.
Barely out of his teens, Utkarsh Singh has already been a revelation for Jharkhand in the domestic circuit, and has also already represented India in various age group tournaments. The 22-year-old has opened the batting for Jharkhand this domestic season, and his ability to score runs quickly at the top of the order would give the Punjab Kings management plenty to ponder about when they pick their team. Utkarsh is also handy with the ball, guaranteeing a couple of economical overs with his off-spinners.
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Coming off the back of a very successful domestic season, Harpreet Brar would be full of confidence heading into the IPL bubble. Brar seems to be getting better by the day with the ball in hand, hitting the right lengths and inducing mistakes from the opposition. With the IPL back in India, the 25-year-old left-arm spinner is sure to get help from the pitches, making it difficult for opposition players to score freely against him. Secondly, like most of his compatriots, Brar too can score quickly when required lower down the order, giving Anil Kumble and co. a selection headache this IPL when it comes to picking all-rounders.
Over to you. Who are the all-rounders that you think Punjab Kings should start with in IPL 2021? Let us know in the comments below.