Betfair ODDs as on date
To reach final: 5.50
In four seasons of Indian Premier League, Kings XI Punjab have only flattered to deceive. They have shown flashes of individual brilliance too, highlighted by Paul Valthaty last year. But mostly, they have veered from hope to hopelessness: shine brightly for a moment and then slip back to a pale showdown.
Will that change this season? We will have to wait for the next few weeks to unfold to see that. But, it does look like the team is making a serious attempt on all fronts to get rid of past baggage and bring about a change. To begin with, Adam Gilchrist will take on the role of coach, besides being the captain too. He wants to mentor the team and that is only a good sign.
The real excitement, though, seems to stem from the acquisition of Azhar Mahmood ($200,000). The other two signees, Ramesh Powar ($160,000) and James Faulkner ($190,000), too are expected to bring some much-needed vigour to the team.
Beyond that, there isn't much qualitative change in the team that played last year. The team's over reliance on all-rounders continues ; the dire need for a quality fast bowler who can seize the advantage on the Mohali pitch still remains. On the batting front, they seem much better equipped. Adam Gilchrist, Paul Valthaty and Shaun Marsh make for an enviable top order. But the others, down the order, need to deliver more regularly.
Punjab's domestic players have already done well in national T20 tournaments and have the advantage of familiarity with conditions . Kings XI Punjab, who have generally neglected domestic players during the initial stages, must tap the talent at their disposal in a better way. In Bipul Sharma, Mandeep Singh, Gurkirat Mann and Harmeet Bansal, they have good, in form players who can step up to the occasion.
The franchise though will miss the services of a sports psychologist. They have pulled off some of the most daring wins in the IPL only to fizzle in the next match. They need to keep the momentum going. Almost all their players have already assembled at the PCA Stadium, Mohali and have begun training in earnest. With less than a week to go, they have to iron all their flaws.
Kings XI's first aim would be to record a win and make sure they don't slip after that. They are good enough to make the knockout stage. But are they ready for it?
Indian angle: Paul Valthaty, Praveen Kumar, Abhishek Nayar, Ramesh Powar, Piyush Chawla, Mandeep Singh, Bipul Sharma, Paras Dogra, Vikramjeet Malik, Siddharth Chitnis, Nitin Saini, Sunny Singh, Bhargav Bhatt, Amit Yadav, Gurkeerat Mann, Salabh Srivastva, Harmeet Singh Bansal, Parvinder Awana, Rajagopal Sathish.
Forgein players: Adam Gilchrist, Shaun Marsh, David Hussey, David Miller, James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Azhar Mahmood, Stuart Broad
Kings have a formidable top order that can give explosive starts. A bevy of all-rounders makes them a potential threat at any stage of the tournament. The foreign talent pool has loads of experience, especially in this format. The tail too can chip in at crucial times.
They are slow starters and the baggage of past failures can peg them back even before the tournament begins. A quality pace bowler is missing too. The team depends a lot on its foreign recruits, particularly skipper Adam Gilchrist; if he fails to fire, other batsmen also tend to slacken. The team doesn't show faith in domestic talent, even if they are performing.
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