x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Indian Premier League: Kings XI Punjab's waning royalty

The Preity Zinta-owned franchise have been unable to live up to the initial hype, writes Osman Samiuddin.

The Australian Adam Gilchrist, left, is one of a few high-profile players representing Kings XI Punjab this season. Bikas Das / AP Photo
The Australian Adam Gilchrist, left, is one of a few high-profile players representing Kings XI Punjab this season. Bikas Das / AP Photo

All that is good, bad and glamorous about the Indian Premier League can be gleaned in the existence of Kings XI Punjab. They are part owned by Preity Zinta, a Bollywood star, even if a fading one.

They have also signed some top names, led in the first two seasons by Yuvraj Singh, then by Kumar Sangakkara and Adam Gilchrist.

They have also been involved in the kind of existential battles that have hovered over the entire enterprise from the first day. Their franchise agreement was terminated in October 2010 by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, but they managed to get a legal order that allowed them to play on both in 2011 and 2012. The issue was finally resolved late last year.

Prospects

The hype around the side has slowly deflated over the seasons (not helped by their dispute with the board). None of the star signings are around anymore and this season no major signings have been made.

A couple of promising players have been brought in though, in the shape of the Under 19 stars Sandeep Sharma and Manan Vohra. The former starred for India in the 2012 U19 World Cup taking four wickets in the final as they won the tournament.

But with not much else, it could all make for precisely the kind of middling runs they have been making since the very first season, when their showbiz-ness seemed to carry them through to the semi-finals.

Star foreign signing

The franchise were pretty quiet during this year's auction, bringing back the Australian left-hander Luke Pomersbach as their sole overseas acquisition. He is a handy format player to have around, but the bigger impact should come from his countrymen David Hussey, a crack hand in this format, though he has yet to truly set Punjab alight, and Shaun Marsh who has always been a prominent contributor.

And though the pair are really getting on, Azhar Mahmood and Gilchrist will figure at some point during a long season.

Star Indian player

As the side is not exactly flush with big local names, it somehow seems appropriate that Praveen Kumar might be a key local player in their fortunes this season.

He has always been an understated and underestimated bowler, unfashionable because he was not so quick and relied on swing more than anything else. His gradual drift away from the Indian side seems apposite as well, because it is not as if they are brimming with pace bowlers. But that absence may renew his focus in the IPL, where he will be a danger with any new ball in hand, whatever the conditions.

Previous history

Apart from that first season semi-final appearance, Kings XI Punjab have been an inconsistent and incoherent side as evidenced by a record that reads 35 matches won and 37 lost (with one tie).

They have been on some particularly dispiriting losing streaks, although in the last two seasons, their hopes of making the qualifiers were only dashed by losses in their final league games.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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