Punjab Kings (PBKS ) had yet another poor year in the Indian Premier League (IPL) during the 2021 season. They looked like a disjointed unit for the most part and finished a disappointing number six in the points table, winning six and losing eight of their 14 matches. PBKS retained the least number of players ahead of the mega auction. They kept only two – opener Mayank Agarwal (Rs 12 crore) and left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh (Rs 4 crore). The franchise was keen on retaining captain KL Rahul, but the batter preferred to be released. There are reports he might lead the Lucknow franchise. Since PBKS retained only two players, they have a massive Rs 72 core remaining purse. Keeping in mind the same, we look at five players PBKS could target at the auction in January.
One big purchase: Trent Boult (6-8 crore)
PBKS had a plethora of pace bowling options in the IPL 2021 squad. From Moises Henriques to Mohammed Shami and Chris Jordan to Jhye Richardson. However, although a few like Shami and Henriques did a decent job with the ball, the franchise decided to release all of them, keeping only young Arshdeep. At the mega auction, PBKS must thus target one match-winning bowler. They have a lot of money left in the bank, so they must pick the right candidate.
New Zealand’s seasoned left-arm pacer Trent Boult, who has been released by Mumbai Indians (MI), can be a good choice. The Kiwi formed a brilliant partnership with Jasprit Bumrah for Mumbai Indians. The duo often bailed the side out of trouble with unplayable yorkers. Boult is a proven performer in the T20 league and had a decent IPL 2021, claiming 13 wickets in 14 games. He can be a valuable asset to PBKS’ bowling.
Elite purchases: Shahrukh Khan, Mohammad Nabi (3-4 crore)
The big-hitting Shahrukh Khan was recently in the news. He turned around the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy final with a splendid 33 not out off 15 balls, a knock that featured three sixes. Those who have followed Shahrukh’s career would not be surprised by his game-changing effort. The 26-year-old from Tamil Nadu is a smart batter who can bat anywhere in the order and has a very good head on his shoulders. He displayed the same in the few opportunities he got for PBKS in IPL 2021. The franchise should look to buy him back.
While PBKS have released young leggie Ravi Bishnoi, they could go for an experienced hand like Mohammad Nabi. The off-spinner has been a highly versatile cricketer for Afghanistan for a number of years. Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) could not utilize his services due to the team combination (only four overseas players allowed) not allowing him to fit in. But Nabi is a smart operator in the T20 format. He can also perform the dual role of taking wickets and keeping runs down and is a handy bat.
Decent purchases: Evin Lewis, Prasidh Krishna (1-2 crore)
PBKS will find it difficult to replace Rahul, but he is gone now. They are definitely not going to buy back Chris Gayle, whose cricketing career is, most probably, in its final few months. Another swashbuckling West Indies opener, Evin Lewis, will not be a bad choice. The aggressive batter did a reasonable job for RR in Jos Buttler’s absence at the top of the order and played a couple of handy knocks in the T20 World Cup as well.
Among the pace bowling options likely to be available at the auction, PBKS could take a look at Prasidh Krishna. Although he has already made his India debut, Krishna still has a long way to go. Playing for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in IPL 2021, he went for quite a few in a couple of matches. But Krishna has pace and has given glimpses of his capability. He could be someone Punjab can try and groom.