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Kings XI Punjab made two very important changes before the auctions this year. It managed to keep Preity Zinta off the auction table, and convinced Mike Hesson to be on it. Hesson replaced Brad Hodge as the head coach. Sehwag, the mentor, and the team parted ways as well.
One would presume a new coach would bring in his own ideology and a new manner of doing things his way, but it might be the ‘Punjab’ in KXIP or something too stringent (read lenient) in the set-up, KXIP still went all in the Preity-way.
Well, who are we to judge the ‘Universe Boss’? What we can do is subtly put it out there that not long ago, he chased down 114 odd runs in a 50 over game within 13 overs.
As for KL Rahul, last year, this place, he was nonchalantly driving fast bowlers for six over covers, then went out of favour of the national side on more than one occasion despite getting a good deal of games, had a good run with India-A, and is back here with himself to prove to, and a WC spot to grab.
KXIP has a good opening, which on its day, should comfortably win games. However, unlike last year, KXIP must not be too dependent on it.
They have got options well covered in Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran, and Prabhsimran Singh.
One key to be not hugely dependent on the openers is for the middle order to perform. KXIP seems to be well stocked here with the likes of Agarwal, Nair, Pooran, Miller, Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz and Henriques.
Karun Nair’s form might be a worry. And between Pooran and Miller, it would be a toss up.
The middle order is, not as destructive as the opening pair, but is decent enough and an Indian core is an added advantage.
This is KXIP’s weakest suit. There is a lack of proper T20 allrounders, and it will have to do with Curran and Ashwin. Who will get KXIP a crunch 40 off 15 balls come the moment, is a question to be asked to Mr. Hesson. Will Henriques be slotted lower down?
KXIP has options galore in the spin department. Its first choice spinners are world class: Ashwin and Mujeeb. Their backup is a millionaire: Varun Chakravarthy. And throw in a handy Murugan Ashwin as well.
KXIP’s pace department isn’t sorted and has troubles. There is a T20 specialist in Tye. But he has recently been inconsistent. And he might leave halfway, if he’s a part of Australia’s plans.
Punjab has got the best IPL Shami ever, but with the World Cup in sight, he won’t play all games. Ankit Rajpoot is in great form, but is the only other credible Indian pacer.
Hardus Viljoen might be a dark horse. In the T10 league, a format for batters and audience, he was the highest wicket taker with both economy and average under 8.
“Ee sala cup namde?” asked KL Rahul to Mayank Agarwal.
PROBABLE PLAYING XI:
Chris Gayle, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair/Mandeep Singh, David Miller, Sam Curran, Ravichandran Ashwin, Varun Chakkravarthy, Mujeeb Rahman, Mohammad Shami, Ankit Rajpoot