Kings XI Punjab will get a home-grown chance to display their wares on Wednesday when they play host to the Chennai Super Kings(CSK) at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali. Having been semi-finalists in the first season of the IPL, they have since suffered a recession that has spanned the last two editions, in both of which they have been knocked out prematurely – one such ousting coming at the hands of the Chennai Super Kings too, in 2009. After a debacle of a first match on Sunday, which they lost by 6 wickets to the new-born Pune enterprise, Adam Gilchrist’s side will be looking to turn over a new leaf before nine stiches are needed. Everything Kings XI has done wrong in their opener, though, the Super Kings did right in theirs. They retained their core from their world-beating side of the first three seasons, signed new players worth their weight in canary gold, and got off on the right foot this season, recording a last-ball victory against Kolkata.
MS. Dhoni‘s men live the special, charmed life given to Midas’ offsprings. If MS Dhoni touches, and gold gleams, his team too is polished with the same sheen. Someone like Anirudha Srikkanth, who was a follower of his father’s brand of heedless hitting, was honed by Dhoni’s influence into producing a match-winning knock bolstered by conscientious stroke-play in the tournament opener. Subramaniam Badrinath’s years of toil in domestic cricket have found fruition under Mahi‘s nourishing gaze and the innately careful batsman is now capable of playing noteworthy innings in the shorter format too.
The batting line-up is as sturdy as any side in the IPL this season. With an attacking Test opener in Murali Vijay manning the helm along with Anirudha, the Super Kings can go into the match with an indemnified middle order. The men in the middle order are no dependents themselves either; starting with the canny Suresh Raina, who can kill pace and spin alike with his swirling flourishes of the bat, Albie Morkel, who cracked crucial big blows for his team at the death last Friday and can work up a storm without much ado, to the inimitable Dhoni, a committed Badrinath and the quintessential allrounder in Kiwi Scott Styris, the Chennai batting line-up will be a hard nut to crack for the Punjab attack. They even have in their ranks Faf du Plessis, who could play this match if Chennai wish to give him a go at an IPL debut, and settle who, between him and Styris, could be the better foreign player for the late middle-order role.
Chennai has a promising attack this season. If you thought Doug Bollinger was match-winner enough to take the side to the semis on his own steam, these guys laid their hands on Tim Southee, a paceman renowned for his death-bowling. Playing in his IPL debut on Friday against the Knight Riders, Southee displayed no starting troubles whatsoever, bringing his skills to the fore upon first call of the clarion. He undid Kolkata’s late charge towards the target, bowling the tightest final over any captain could ask for, as he brought the equation that had Kolkata needing a doable 9 from 8 to a boundary needed off the last ball, at which point he slipped an unplayable body yorker through to secure the win for Chennai. Chennai went in with three specialist spinners last game – Ravichandran Ashwin, Shadab Jakati and Sri Lankan offie Suraj Randiv; but seeing the manner in which Punjab was undone by the Pune Warriors fast bowlers Srikanth Wagh and Alfonso Thomas, one of the spinner troika could make way for Nuwan Kulasekara or Sudip Tyagi, the latter of whom is a similar bowler to Thomas.
The runs plundered by the batsmen and wickets punched by the bowlers will be enhanced by the number of runs that the fielders are capable of saving. The likes of Styris, Southee, Ashwin, Raina, Vijay and Anirudha form a formidable fortress of defence and with Dhoni stumping away like no tomorrow, the Kings XI have their run-making cut out for them as a tough task.
Kings XI Punjab:
If any Kings XI fans had tried to rationalise the loss of Yuvraj Singh away as saying good riddance to a leader who was not considered the most mature of cricketers, what they got to see on the field on Sunday would have struck them as painfully ironic and, at times, juvenile. The team that showed up to play the opener did not seem bonded as ideally as it should have been, for a completely revamped side, and its disintegrated structure manifested in an unmitigated collapse of the top order. Against Chennai, if ever, crumbling to 9/4 after the first four overs will not bode well.
Adam Gilchrist, as Captain and demolisher-in-chief, will have to take up the scoring mantle up front so as to shield a novice batting line-up that no longer has the Jayawardenes, Yuvrajs and Sangakkaras to shore it up. Shaun Marsh, alongside his Captain, possesses the striking ability to evoke reminiscences of the Hayden-Gilchrist partnership of yore, and in a predicament similar to what Delhi Daredevils faces, Punjab too will rely heavily on a strong opening salvo.
Dinesh Karthik, Chennai-ite, may have some valuable insights into what makes some of the Super Kings tick, which he will likely be constantly chirping into his Captain’s ear from First Slip. Karthik’s batting will also be crucial for the Kings XI, as he can play the wise anchor in the brittle line-up while threading gaps to keep the scoreboard ticking along. After the mid-pitch fiasco between Sunny Singh and Abhishek Nayar, which ended in a headless run-out after Singh chose to while the time away in admonishing Nayar at the non-striker’s end even as an off-target throw meant he could have made a shunt back to his crease, Gilchrist will have dressed his boys down. Ryan McLaren’s club of a bat has set high expectations after the face-saving fifty he notched up against Pune, and he will be looked to for consistent scores.
Praveen Kumar‘s spell becomes all the more important for a team for which he is the spearhead. Sorely missing the bowling of Ryan Harris, who is unavailable as he recuperates from an ankle surgery, Punjab has a dearth in bowling resources as well. Queens lander Nathan Rimmington was the least leaky of the Kings XI bowlers on Sunday, but went wicket less, unlike his wont. He has a handy bowling average of 18 and his fast-medium can stand to be a tricky proposition for the Chennai batsmen. Piyush Chawla bowled only the one over against Pune, in which he was carted for 12 runs. His contribution will be essential to the team, which is low on spin strength, Bhargav Bhatt, Amit Yadav, Paras Dogra and Bipul Sharma the other spinners in the side. In lieu of Chawla, Punjab has the option of going with Bhatt, who was the highest wicket-taker in the 2010-11 Ranji Trophy Super League. Boy, if only Brett Lee were still around…
Punjab’s fielding was another nail in its coffin on Sunday, as players no less than Yuvraj Singh and Robin Uthappa were reprieved with the game slipping away.
Head to head encounters: Chennai Super Kings 6- 1 Kings XI Punjab
- Apr 19, 2008: Chennai won by 33 runs.
- May 10, 2008: Chennai won by 18 runs.
- May 31, 2008: Chennai won by 9 wickets.
- May 7, 2009: Chennai won by 12 runs.
- May 20, 2009: Chennai won by 24 runs.
- Mar 21, 2010: Punjab won in the Super Over.
- Apr 18, 2010: Chennai won by 6 wickets.
Likely playing XI:
Chennai Super Kings: Murali Vijay, Anirudha Srikkanth, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Subramanium Badrinath, Scott Styris, Albie Morkel, Suraj Randiv/Nuwan Kulasekara, Ravichandran Ashwin, Tim Southee, Shadab Jakati/Sudeep Tyagi.
Kings XI Punjab: Shaun Marsh, Adam Gilchrist, Paul Valthaty, Dinesh Karthik, Ryan McLaren, Abhishek Nayar, Sunny Singh, Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Nathan Rimmington, Bhargav Bhatt.
Watch out for…
…Murali Vijay, who smashed a 56-ball 127 in 2010 and was the top run-scorer in the Champions League later that year, did not click in the first game. He brings in an astute approach to biffing, assisted by a classical style of batting. If he can get stuck in, he can catapult Punjab into a tornado of fluid sixers!
..and Adam Gilchrist, the newbie captain of Punjab, retired Australian bowler-slayer, former leader of Deccan Chargers all the way to the Championship trophy! He is not used to failing, caught behind to unknown Waghs for cheap single-digit scores, and will be smarting under his team’s ignoble first match defeat. Now if he can just get his squash ball out of his kitbag…
Prediction: The two teams, on the proverbial paper, are poles apart. While you would not expect teams to be heavily mismatched in the shorter format, which forgives weak sides, the Super Kings have in their resume three finals, two wins, one Champions League victory and a Captain who has led his sides to the top of nearly every cricketing echelon yet known. Whereas, Punjab have a dark cloud hovering above their head that reminds them that they have not made the last two IPL semis, have lost their previous bigwigs to the player pool and were thoroughly bashed up in their first outing. If they have anything going for them this time, it is the fact that they define the underdog this season. If Gilchrist can be for his undercooked, untouched side what Shane Warne was to Rajasthan Royals in IPL-1, there could be a contest. But, going by the form book, the Super Kings should have the Kings XI’s number!