Kings XI Punjab have announced that R Ashwin will captain them in the 2018 season of the IPL. The India spinner was a leading candidate for the role ever since the franchise signed him for INR 7.6 crores (USD 1.1 million) at the player auction in January. While he has never captained in the IPL before, Ashwin has frequently led his state Tamil Nadu in various domestic competitions.
"The best quality in Ashwin is that he is very smart and he understands this T20 format better than anybody else," Virender Sehwag, Kings XI team director and mentor said. "This year we decided to do something different and I think he is the perfect choice for the captaincy."
Ashwin, 31, played for Chennai Super Kings from 2009 to 2015, before spending the 2016 season with Rising Pune Supergiant following his hometown franchise's suspension from the tournament. He sat out the entire 2017 season with sports hernia.
This season is a new beginning for Ashwin in more than one way. He has expanded his bowling skillset, and has revealed he will bowl legspin as well as his regular offspin. A good IPL season could also push his claims for a recall to India's limited-overs sides; while he is firmly India's No. 1 spinner in Tests, he has not played an ODI or T20I since July 2017.
This season will also be his first for an IPL team not led by or including MS Dhoni, and is therefore an opportunity for him to show his leadership skills. Ashwin is known to be an innovative captain in domestic cricket, frequently setting unorthodox fields and making imaginative tactical decisions.