Scouting the teams – Kings XI Punjab

Kings XI won just four games last year and alongside Rising Pune Supergiants formed the whipping boys of the IPL. It wasn’t a great fantasy season from them either but there are still always runs/wickets for good players regardless of team situation, although winning helps.

Establishing the core

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I’ll try not to talk too much about last year as I ‘think’ the Kings XI will be more competitive this year but we need some context to work from. The KXIP batting unit didn’t really do themselves any favors in the 2016 campaign though. Indian opener Murali Vijay and utility batsman Wriddhiman Saha were their top two runscorers in a side boasted with foreign talent. Manan Vohra is the only other Indian on the list, deployed in just 7 games after losing form and with his talent status dwindling it will be interesting to see if he has a role in the team this year.

Murali Vijay as a fantasy outlet is a very safe, 30-50 runs a game prospect and can be regarded as a ‘coverage’ pick opening the order for the Kings XI. His inability to convert starts into truly big scores lowers his fantasy potential but five half-centuries and an average of 34.84 is nothing to be sniffed at. Given the situation, playing in a side who have frequent collapses and chase large scores, last years has to be regarded as an impressive campaign from Vijay but can he excel even further in a more competitive team this year?.

Now, the Kings XI thinktank is very hard to read. This is a side who opened with Marcus Stoinis for three games, including one where Amla was made to play at #3 because of him. Prior to his injury, Shaun Marsh batted at #3 for six consecutive games, despite his best T20 batting position probably being as an opener.

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Vijay’s opening partner is completely up in the air right now but Hashim Amla opened for the final five games of the King’s XI season. Amla may’ve only registered the one 50+ score but that in itself shows his attraction as a fantasy option. A first innings 96(56) against eventual winners Sunrisers Hyderabad wasn’t even his highest score during 2016. Now I know that he doesn’t have recent form but throughout 2016 he consistently delivered in different conditions. Initially, against England & Australia on his home turf, before moving on to the WT20 & IPL in India and a solid spell in the CPL saw his average hit 41.39, mightily impressive for a player not considered a T20 specialist. His ability to anchor an innings is unrivaled in the Kings XI squad, combining his traditional stroke-making with the occasional innovative shot he is a joy to watch but his place is far from assured alongside skipper Murali Vijay.

Kings XI bought Martin Guptill for his base price of 50 lakhs in the second round of bidding at the IPL auction. Guptill provides some firepower to the lineup and is very proficient in the power play phase and accelerate even further during the middle overs, scoring at a 150+ strike rate during a majority of his ‘big knocks’, a plus in the current IPL fantasy scoring system. The New Zealander will probably feel at home in the IPL too, his frailties against spin will be nullified by the large number of batting roads prepared by IPL sides in the modern era but the fact that he was only an afterthought for the Kings XI makes him second fiddle to Hashim Amla, at least until the South African is required to join his country at some stage during the IPL. Guptill is also in a rehabilitation phase after injuring both hamstrings during the NZ summer which means he will miss the start of the IPL at least.

Shaun Marsh is still an accomplished T20 asset, considered a #3 right now and with a good T20 predigree i’d suspect that the KIngs XI would go back to him, but with the middle order firepower of Glenn Maxwell, Eoin Morgan and David Miller to account for as well as all-rounders Marcus Stoinis and Darren Sammy and bowler Matt Henry, you could say that picking three from these seven names is somewhat impossible so we won’t get into the nitty gritties of it all. Right now i’d say the foreign contingent would be Amla, Maxwell, Marsh & Stoinis but we don’t know and won’t know with the King XI’s love for making silly decisions.

What I will say is that Marcus Stoinis and Darren Sammy aren’t accomplished enough in terms of likely roles to prove a threat to your fantasy teams, facing 10 balls maximum and bowling 2-3 overs isn’t enough to make yourself a fantasy favorite in the T20 format.

In the battle for the foreign middle order slots Morgan will be leaving the IPL for the Ireland ODIs but intends to return following the games against his country of birth, meaning he misses just two IPL games and making this conundrum even more messy. Maxwell should be a shoe in given his abilities but he hasn’t performed in two IPLs running clouding his selection. David Miller likewise was severely out of form and reduced to a finisher role last year, I don’t think you touch anyone here until we can interpret what we see from the opening games.

KEY POINT: Fortunately enough schedule wise KXIP play in the fourth game of the IPL and subsequently you (probably) won’t be enforced in selecting any of their players in your initial teams, allowing you to account for the toss and team selection, at least. 

Now we’ve spoke a lot about the complicated batting line-up so the bowling line-up should be plain sailing, right.

Sandeep Sharma is still just 23-years-old  and is deployed as the new ball bowler with his ability to swing but he also showcases his yorker ability at the death to provide the 1-2 fantasy bowler punch but he has been know to bowl 4 overs straight up to suffocate the start of the opposition batsman’s innings. All I will say though is select him at your peril, the inability of the Kings XI team to be competitive when batting first puts less emphasis on his death bowling and also means the batsman don’t chase his swinging deliveries in the powerplay. 15 wickets @24.40, an economy rate of 7.32 and a strike rate of 20 in a down year is very good, he could be among the elite if he and his side turn up this year.

Axar Patel and Mohit Sharma are also looking for bouceback campaigns. 23-year-old Axar Patel bowls some of the tightest spells seen by a SLO bowler, with the ability to even hold down Chris Gayle at the M.Chinnaswamy. He can bowl at any stage during the innings, even at the death. Murali Vijay’s usage of him will be key to his success as a fantasy prospect. Mohit is likely to play second fiddle to Axar & Sandeep but might be a fantasy friendly option if he’s listed at a cheap price. His nack of somehow picking up wickets has now faded after a successful first two IPL campaigns and the medium pacer is now restricted to being a slower ball specialist and bowling during the middle overs.

All three of these Indian bowlers played the full 14 games last year and should do the same this year, making them surefire selections.

Filling in the blanks

There’s so much to talk about here so in a way there isn’t that much to talk about.

Here’s a list of Wriddhiman Saha’s game-by-game batting position last year.

5, 7, 6, 4, 7, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.

Now, if you consider that he batted at #3 only after the Shaun Marsh injury, i’d say that Saha is just a middle order batsman who is moved around based on Kings XI’s overseas talent, and that won’t change this year either. His fantasy potential will fluctuate game to game and should the Kings XI openers get off to a hot start his batting position will continue to drop as big hitters rise above him. He can bat anywhere from 1 to 7, I don’t want to try and hit the games where he opens vs the games where he bats in the lower order. Screenshot 2017-02-27 at 17.30.46.png

Manan Vohra is still living off his IPL7 campaign as a talent but his status took a nosedive  last year after being dropped six games into the tournament. As an opener last year Vohra consistently gifted his wicket as he slogged his way through the powerplay overs. Kings XI’s top order talent should mean that the Kings XI play an extra seamer, or Gurkeerat Mann Singh will indirectly take his place as a middle order batsman.

Varun Aaron, Anureet Singh will compete with Natarajan for the final seamers spot(s) alongside Mohit and Sandeep. Anureet offers excellent death over skills but Natarajan should see himself getting the start after receiving a heavy fee from the IPL auction and showcasing some serious slower ball and yorker skills. Adept to bowling in the middle overs and at the death, even with the potential to cramp a batsman during the powerplay, I cannot wait to see this Indian talent in action. Kings XI could even play two of the three and drop Mohit Sharma or a batsman(Manan Vohra) but this entirely depends on the tactics the Kings XI want to deploy, and we know how crazy that could be.

If there is a spinning deck, Maxwell’s part time business is generally ignored as the third seamer is dropped for ‘mystery spinner’ KC Cariappa, Sahu or Tewatia but that’s more for the daily articles and this was a very infrequent occurrence last season.

Anyway, this was your rough guide to the roughest IPL team out there, we hope and pray for more clarity soon but our luck might just be out here.

 

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