When you speak of boundless energy and countless passion, one region in India that springs to mind is Punjab. The flamboyance of the people, the energy on and off the field, the enthusiasm for sports and the knack to enjoy every bit of life makes them special. True to this trend, the Kings XI Punjab have carved a niche for themselves in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as one of the most colourful units.
What makes them different and what gives the fans this unbridled joy? Despite the fervour, they are one of the three IPL sides yet to win the title and have reached the playoffs only twice in 12 years. Furthermore, they have finished eighth in three seasons and haven’t finished greater than fifth in the last five years. This is one franchise that is yet to trouble the betting sites, who would likely be willing to take them on at every opportunity. Still, the Kings XI remains one of the most enthusiastic units in the competition.
Where it all started for Kings XI Punjab
A group of investors including the Bollywood (Indian movie industry) heroine Preity Zinta acquired the Kings XI franchise in the inaugural IPL bidding by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in 2008. A total of $76 million was paid for the rights, with the franchise based out of Mohali in Chandigarh.
They started life in the IPL with a bang and the Kings XI finished second out of the eight teams during the league phase in 2008. That was, however, the end of the good news as they crashed out at the semi-final stage and put the end to many fans’ bet for the season. Not until 2014 could they revive the magic when they finished first in the group stage. Hopes were raised when they reached the final but were edged out by a fired-up Kolkata Knight Riders. That was the last time the Kings XI were seen in a play-off.
Over-reliance on individuals
The problem for the Kings XI lies in relying on specific individuals for a particular season. It started with the inaugural 2008 season when Shaun Marsh defied the odds to end up as the season’s top scorer. After being overlooked in the IPL player auctions, Marsh was drafted late, but he carried the side’s fortunes on his performances – 616 runs, Avg. 68.44, SR 139.68 in 11 innings ending up with the ‘Orange Cap’ for the highest run-scorer in the competition. However, his performances alone couldn’t lift the Kings XI side beyond the semis.
What it did illustrate was the franchise’s reliance on an individual’s brilliance and foreign player contributions. The second season held in South Africa didn’t bring much joy, as they crashed out without making it to the semis. Although they were in contention for the final-four spot until the last game, the absence of the entire Australian contingent (owing to international commitments) hit them hard.
Barren Period for the Kings XI Punjab
What followed from there is a period of inconsistent results and barren results. Starting from the 2010 season, the Kings XI franchise finished eighth, fifth, sixth, and sixth respectively. Barring the 2011 season when they finished within a whisker of the playoffs, the Kings XI were always one of the basement clubs.
The 2011 season saw the franchise finish within two points (or one win) of a play-off place. It was a case of so-near-yet-so-far as Adam Gilchrist led the team from the front and was an admirable captain with his strategies. With Michael Bevan as the coach, the side had a complete Australian identity – something which the Kings XI side continued over the years. On the field, though, they didn’t show signs of moving beyond individuals and producing team performances.
By the time Gilchrist retired at the end of 2013 season, the Kings XI were languishing in the lower echelons of the tournament. Their next spurt in the competition came in 2014 when they rode high on the leadership of another Australian to get back into the IPL top-half.
George Bailey, highly regarded down under as one of the most astute modern-day captains got his due with the Kings XI. Chosen to lead the franchise in 2014, Bailey made sure that the fans got their reward after years of waiting. Not just Bailey, there were other smart purchases by the franchise in that season. In came Virender Sehwag, Glenn Maxwell, and Mitchell Johnson. Again, the Australian dominance was pretty evident and widespread in the selections.
That season saw Sehwag at his destructive best (455 runs, SR 144.44), while Maxwell (552 runs, SR 187.75), and David Miller (446 runs, SR 149.16) were even better. With the ball, Johnson was at his menacing best (17 wickets), while Sandeep Sharma (18 wickets) and Axar Patel (17 wickets) were equally good. However, they couldn’t cross the final hurdle and finished as runners-up.
While the club thought it would start a new era, the performances on the field were far from it. The next two seasons saw the Kings XI finish last and the team went through a lot of changes off the field too. At the start of the 2017 season, Sehwag joined the team as head coach and it was expected that he would give them a new direction. They did improve and were just a win away from reaching the playoffs.
New direction for the Kings XI
The 2018 season saw the Kings XI rope in some exciting names like KL Rahul, Ravichandran Ashwin, Chris Gayle, and Yuvraj Singh. Brad Hodge – another Australian – joined the side as head coach and there were semblances of improvement. They did win six of their first seven games, although fizzling out in the second half and ultimately missing out on the playoffs spot.
Ahead of the 2020 season, the fans’ hopes are once again rising. There’s Anil Kumble who has joined the side as head coach, while the likes of Andy Flower (assistant coach), Jonty Rhodes (fielding coach), Wasim Jaffer (batting coach), and Charl Langeveldt (bowling coach) have been roped in.
Whether it will change the fortunes of the Kings XI Punjab side is anybody’s guess, but the advice of Bet From India is that they look worthy of a bet to challenge for a playoff spot.