new captain. A new opponent. Kings XI Punjab are set to host newbie Gujarat Lions in their IPL 2016 opener at home and will be eyeing a massive change in their fortunes, hoping to bury the bitter memories of finishing last in the previous edition. The fallout of the forgettable season was that they made a major change in the leadership, chucking out captain George Bailey from the squad and appointing David Miller as his successor while roping in Virender Sehwag as the team mentor. It’s not a major overhaul. The core of the team remains intact unlike Delhi Daredevils who finished a rung above them and overhauled their squad as a result.
Bowling has been their Achilles Heels and it seems they have made some effort towards dealing with it with the purchase of Mohit Sharma. They have always boasted of a powerful batting line-up but at times when it has faltered, seldom they have the bowlers who can strike confidence to back them up under trying circumstances. Their quality batsmen, if on song, can run away with the game though. Miller, who doesn’t have much experience as far as captaincy goes, has some task at hand but will have the comfort of being guided by Sehwag and coach Sanjay Bangar. Strategies aside, he will hope the batsmen live up to the reputation and the bowlers, who don’t strike much confidence, will raise their game as well.
On the other end will be IPL veteran Suresh Raina, in charge of Gujarat Lions as they look to make a strong impression in their maiden season. Theirs is a strong squad, the core of which has been carved from the suspended Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. Packed with world-class hitters, allrounders and a quality fast bowler, the team comes close to being a formidable side on paper. Provided they click as a unit, Raina can hope to emulate the winning start that another IPL debutant Rising Pune Supergiants enjoyed on the opening night of the season on Friday.
Venue: Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium, Mohali
Date: April 11, 2016
Time: 20:00 IST
Weather: Mostly sunny with temperature ranging between 18 and 32 degree Celsius
Kings XI Punjab
Batting order looks settled but the bowling continues to be a weak link. Mitchell Johnson retired from international cricket last November, so he lacks match practice and his pace will also not pose much threat to the opposition batsmen on slow pitches. Mohit Sharma will lead the attack but he’s coming from an injury that kept him out of India’s World T20 squad. Glenn Maxwell was a flop show last season but his recent performances in international cricket and for KXIP in the past hold him in good stead.
Probable XI: 1 Murali Vijay 2 Manan Vohra 3 Wriddhiman Saha 4 Glenn Maxwell 5 David Miller 6 Gurkeerat Singh 7 Axar Patel 8 Mohit Sharma 9 Anureet Singh 10 Mitchell Johnson 11 Kyle Abbott
It’s a balanced squad and the availability of allrounders makes the task of selecting the playing XI a bit easier. The top seven select themselves except for one at the opener’s slot which will be a tossup between Aaron Finch and Dwayne Smith. Dale Steyn is a quality pace option but his waning impact and a forgettable World T20 will keep him out of the final XI. The batting looks quite strong, it’s the bowling which looks a bit weak. Bravo and Faulkner are known for their death overs bowling so pacers of the likes of Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni will be in the firing line upfront, sharing the burden with the spinners.
Probable XI: 1 Brendon McCullum 2 Dwayne Smith/Aaron Finch 3 Suresh Raina 4 Dinesh Karthik 5 Dwayne Bravo 6 Ravindra Jadeja 7 James Faulkner 8 Dhawal Kulkarni 9 Praveen Kumar 10 Pravin Tambe 11 Shivil Kaushik/Shadab Jakati
“We’ve already started being diplomatic with each other while discussing IPL. I’ve been looking at ways to ask him about his team’s preparations, he’s been doing the same. At dinner tables, at the nets, during practice, both of us are asking each other a lot of things but not revealing anything to each other.” – Suresh Raina on his changed equation with MS Dhoni
“As foreign players, we have been fortunate to play in the Indian conditions. I feel fairly confident in Indian conditions, in terms of what works and what doesn’t work. IPL is a huge platform for everyone.” – David Miller on how he will deal with Indian conditions