IPL 2023 Punjab Kings Preview
For sheer entertainment value, it's hard to beat Punjab Kings in the IPL but can they become more consistent in 2023? We preview their chances of making the playoffs for the first time in 9 seasons.
Punjab Kings Review of IPL 2022
The below stats do a very good job of describing Punjab's 2022 season. They came out with the bat and looked to attack from the off, smashed a few boundaries and very often lost a few wickets.
That approach is fine if you have depth in your batting line-up but PBKS regularly found themselves in a position where their tail enders were simply trying to bat out the overs, a fact that is underlined by them having the worst run rate at the death.
Shikhar Dhawan did his best to anchor the innings and ultimately finished the season with 460 runs. It was a good effort but represented his lowest return in an IPL season since 2015. Next to him, captain Mayank Agarwal averaged just 16 with 1 score of 50+.
Liam Livingstone was one of the stars of the 2022 season with 437 runs at a strike rate of 182. Only fellow Englishman Jos Buttler hit more sixes than Livingstone (34) and of course he faced significantly more deliveries than his Lancashire teammate.
Another Englishman, Jonny Bairstow, missed the opening part of the season and took a little while to adapt back into the T20 tempo. His 2 half centuries came in the last 4 matches of the season and by then PBKS were in need of a miracle to reach the playoffs.
Bowler wise, Kagiso Rabada finished as the highest wicket taker in the tournament as far as quick bowlers were concerned. Rahul Chahar was effective without really having the impact that a few other wrist spinners managed last season and Arshdeep Singh was incredibly economical, particularly at the death, without having much penetration.
Beyond Dhawan, Livingstone, Bairstow (when he arrived) and the 3 bowlers noted above, PK really struggled to pick players who could impact a game. No other batsman manged to cross even the 250 run mark for the season and only Agarwal, as noted above, delivered a 50+ score. It was notable as well that Livingstone was Punjab's 4th most used bowler in the tournament and while he's capable of contributing with the ball, you wouldn't usually expect him to feature at the expense of front line bowlers.
All in all, Punjab's side lacked balance and were very one dimensional in the way they approached games. When their gung-ho tactics came off they were fantastic to watch but when it didn't the whole thing looked a little shambolic.
Punjab Kings IPL 2023 Auction
The difficulty for every franchise in the mini-auctions is that there are very few players available and plenty of teams looking to strength which of course drives up prices. PBKS found this out first hand by making Sam Curran a record signing. He will certainly add depth to their batting and bowling but elsewhere Punjab did little to fix the problems noted above.
It was particularly noticeable that PBKS still have a sizeable chunk of money available to them (over 12 crore) and an overseas spot free. As we'll get to in more detail below, they come into this season with big question marks over the fitness of a couple of their English stars so it seems very strange for them not to have brought in cover.
Elsewhere, Mayank Agarwal left the franchise after 1 season in charge but again Punjab failed to bring in any experienced Indian batsman to replace him.
Zimbabwe all-rounder Sikandar Raza certainly adds to their strong looking list of all-round options but may struggle to find a place in the team if all the first choice overseas players are fit.
Otherwise, Punjab were generally left buying relative unknowns. There will be some excitement around the signing of Vidwath Kaverappa, a right-arm fast bowler who has been taking wickets for fun across all formats during the early part of his career. It will, however, be a big step up to the the IPL in 2023.
Punjab Kings Predicted XI IPL 2023
On the face of it, the loss of Agarwal shouldn't have a major impact on PBKS and it would allow Jonny Bairstow to return to his favoured role as an opening batsman. Alongside the experienced Dhawan who has taken over the captaincy, that would represent a strong opening pair.
However, Bairstow has barely been able to walk let alone play cricket since breaking his leg at the end of the English summer. He has not ruled himself out of the IPL season yet but at the same time he's given no indication of an expected return date.
Liam Livingstone launches one of the biggest sixes in IPL history
Without Bairstow, PBKS could be tempted to shift Liam Livingstone up to open, bearing in mind that for the majority of his career, that was his favoured position. Alternatively they could bring in Harpreet Bhatia who has ample experience at the top of the order in domestic cricket but is yet to play a game in the IPL. If Punjab want to go down the ultra aggressive route again they could put in Sam Curran who has played as a pinch hitter in the past.
Whatever, the option, it does leave one scratching their head to understand why PBKS didn't spend their remaining money and fill their last overseas spot with a genuine top order batsman as cover for Bairstow. Van der Dussen, Malan, Kusal Mendis, Stirling, Smeed, Banton, to mention just a few would have added depth and none of them would have cost in excess of 2 crore.
The question of where Livingstone (who himself is trying to overcome an injury) will bat is a key one for Punjab to answer. If he doesn't open how low should he come in? Ideally, you'd want him to bat at maybe 3 or 4 but when you look at the other middle order options available to PBKS then there must be the temptation to drop him a bit lower to add some quality into what is otherwise a fairly average bunch of cricketers.
We saw a couple of nice cameos from Jitesh Sharma last year and PBKS will be banking on him taking that impressive strike rate to the next level and playing some truly match winning innings.
Shahrukh Khan came into the IPL a couple of seasons ago with a big reputation and hefty price tag after his exploits with Tamil Nadu in the T20 domestic leagues. However, he's failed to live up to expectations with 270 runs in his first 19 IPL matches at a strike rate of just 121.
Prabhsimran Singh top scored for Punjab in the Syed Musthaq Ali trophy this season
PBKS do have young Prabhsimran Singh in their squad and indeed have done for the last 4 seasons during which time he's played just 6 times. A local Punjab boy, the 22-year-old has been scoring runs for fun on the domestic circuit including a double hundred in a 4 day match in December, while in the Syed Mustaq Ali T20 trophy his numbers were equally impressive. Given the limited options Punjab have, it looks likely that he will get a run in the side this year and he could be a player to watch!
Punjab have strengthened their all round options by bringing in Sam Curran. His bowling at the death has improved dramatically over the last couple of years and his wicket taking ability saw him claim the player of the tournament award at last year's T20 World Cup.
In the international set-up, he's not usually given much of a chance with the bat (he's faced just 121 balls in his 35 matches for England) but in the IPL he has been given greater responsibility on that front and on occassion has shown what a dangerous hitter he can be. He might find himself batting as high as number 6 in the PBKS set-up and the pressure on him to deliver will be significant.
Punjab also have the likes of Rishi Dhawan and Harpreet Brar who could occupy spots at 7 and 8 and bowl a few overs overs. For me both are what I would call 'bits and pieces' cricketers, neither really justifies selection on account of one of the primary skills and instead they offer you a little bit with the bat and a little bit with the ball. It wasn't enough for PBKS last season and it's difficult to believe it will be any different in 2023.
It may be that Punjab give talented young all-rounder Raj Bawa a chance this season. He was one of the stars of the 2022 U-19 T20 World Cup that India ultimately won. He put in 3 match winning performances in that tournament including smashing 162* against Uganda, taking 4 wickets against a very talented South African side and then going one better in the final where he took a five for. Those performances fast tracked him into India's A squad and with the national side always on the look out for a fast bowling all rounder then there will be a lot of attention on the 20-year-old if he takes to the field in IPL 2023.
Raj Bawa's all round performance in the U-19 World Cup saw him named in the team of the series
As for the bowlers, PBKS will once again depend very heavily on Rabada, Arshdeep Singh and Chahar. The acquisition of Curran does strengthen their options and gives them another quick bowler who is happy to bowl in all stages of the game.
The real strength of the Punjab bowling attack appears to be at both ends of the innings and if they are to improve on last seasons performance then they'll want to take more wickets during the middle phase of the game. Rahul Chahar is a consistent bowler at this level delivering between 13 and 15 wickets per season over the past 4 years. Most of the sides competing at the back end of the tournament will have a frontline spinner pushing past the 20 wicket mark for the year. Can Chahar increase his output in IPL 2023?
Squad depth on the bowling front again looks a little weak. PBKS have Nathan Ellis whose change-ups can be effective in this form of the game but he's hardly a like for like swap for Rabada.
Vidhwath Kaverappa took 18 wickets in 8 matches for Karnataka this season
Otherwise, as far as local fast bowling options are concerned, Punjab have Baltej Singh who will know the local conditions well enough but at 32 has never appeared in the IPL before, and, they have the aforementioned Vidhwath Kaverappa. Like so many of this PBKS squad, Kaverappa is certainly an exciting young talent but it would be throwing him in at the deep end if Punjab hope that he can have an immediate impact in IPL 2023.
Punjab Kings IPL 2023 Predictions
To release Agarwal and come into the season with big fitness doubts over Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone without getting suitable back-up during the auction raises serious doubts about Punjab's ability to put big enough runs on the board this year.
Their approach to batting last season was exciting at times and frenetic at others. They didn't really have the quality or depth in their batting to pull it off with any great regularity and in terms of personnel not much has changed in the off-season. We wait to see whether PBKS will continue their aggressive approach at the top of the innings or change things up in IPL 2023.
The 4th & 5th bowling options were a problem for PBKS and the acquisition of Sam Curran should help solve that but again their is an over reliance on Rabada, Chahar and Arshdeep with very little back-up to speak of should form or fitness become a problem.
PBKS are banking on some exciting young Indian talent in the form of Prabhsimran Singh, Raj Bawa and Vidhwath Kaverappa being able to have some impact on IPL 2023. They will certainly be players to look out for but the step up to playing against some of the best cricketers in the world in front of packed stadiums is going to be a difficult one.
Predicted Finish: 10th
All stats used in this blog are from my own database which is freely accessible at T20 head to head. Images are my own with the exception of player profiles and background images which are used under a creative commons license or otherwise royalty free
Looking forward to this season now as we an see some upsets I think as it depends who is in form.
Always a competitive league with the wage cap system making most squads pretty even - if only football would ditch its ridiculous financial fair play model and adapt a wage cap system, then you’d soon get the same in that sport too
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