Monday, April 11, 2016
Start time 2000 local (14.30 GMT)
Glenn Maxwell will be keen to reciprocate Mohali’s love with innings of substance this season © BCCI
Kings XI Punjab’s previous two seasons have represented the travails of the stock market. With nine totals of 170 or more and a runner-up culmination, 2014 was their bull market. The weight of the bear was too much in the next year as Kings XI became the first team ruled out of a playoff spot. The team released their captain George Bailey, their non-performing asset, and appointed as his successor David Miller, who has led only three times in his 189-match T20 career. With only four fifties since 2015, Miller’s own form has come under scrutiny. Having played 34 matches for the franchise since 2014, he should know all about their ups and downs.
Bailey’s departure opens up an overseas playing slot and Shaun Marsh is the leading candidate. Unlike previous seasons, Kings XI will not face the dilemma of wanting to accommodate this highly consistent performer while not being able to.
Gujarat Lions come into the contest with none of the baggage that their opposition have. A formidable foreign talent pool is their biggest strength and the Indian contingent, despite containing 12 uncapped players, possesses plenty of IPL experience. Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch, unburdened after international retirement and being relieved of T20 captaincy respectively, can fire away in the Powerplay. With end-overs specialists in Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner and new-ball operators in Praveen Kumar, Dale Steyn and Dhawal Kulkarni, Lions have most bases covered. With a number of permutations available to them, how quickly can the new franchise figure out their best combination?
In the spotlight
Glenn Maxwell had a disastrous 2015 campaign, scoring 145 runs in 11 matches at an average of 13.18. Much of Kings XI’s success has been dependent on his pyrotechnics. That is unlikely to change this season, and their opening game, at home, is as good an opportunity as any for Maxwell to remind everyone of the force he was in 2014.
Lions’ allrounders – Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner – are all capable of bowling their quota and providing impetus towards the end overs with the bat. They also lend depth and balance to the team, allowing the top order to bat with more freedom. Clearing the large square boundaries in Mohali will be a hard task, particularly against Bravo and Faulkner’s slower deliveries.
With Marsh likely to return to the opening slot, Kings XI’s four overseas players look set for a long run, barring injury or drastic loss of form. Mohali isn’t known to offer too much turn, which means Axar Patel should mostly be the solitary spinner with Maxwell and Gurkeerat Singh as back-up options.
Kings XI Punjab (probable): 1 M Vijay, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 David Miller (capt), 6 Gurkeerat Singh, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Sandeep Sharma, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Anureet Singh
Lions have a good selection headache. Given the options at their disposal, they could take a horses-for-courses approach to decide between Finch, Dwayne Smith and Steyn for the final overseas player’s slot.
Gujarat Lions (probable): 1 Brendon McCullum , 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Ishan Kishan (wk), 4 Suresh Raina (capt), 5 Dinesh Karthik, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 James Faulkner, 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Pravin Tambe, 11 Dhawal Kulkarni
Pitch and conditions
The Mohali pitch was batsman friendly during the World T20, without much assistance for the spinners. Hitting a good length, or just back of a length, could be the way to go given the long square boundaries, and fielders will have to be wary of twos and threes placed into large pockets in the outfield.
Stats and trivia
- Shaun Marsh is one of only four players who have represented the same franchise since the first IPL season, in 2008 – the others are Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan Singh and Virat Kohli.
- Kings XI have played 125 matches, winning 61 and losing 62, with two tied games
Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo