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>IPL 2010 Team Preview: Kings XI Punjab

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The Kings XI Punjab are undoubtedly one of the most talented sides in the Indian Premier League, but they seem to lack that killer instinct and the X-factor that teams like the Delhi Daredevils and the Chennai Super Kings possess. With Bollywood beauty and team co-owner Priety Zinta providing the glamour off the field, the Kings XI will have to do all the talking on it, to back the wonderful support that their team owners have given them. Though they lost only four games in the inaugural IPL, they were knocked out in the semi-finals by beaten finalists Chennai Super Kings. In South Africa last year, they failed to go past the group stage as they had to bite the dust in their final game against Chennai once again. With pressure to perform and stakes being raised to whole new levels, the underachievers of the IPL will be hoping to at least go one step further than what they did in IPL-1 and definitely better than IPL-2.

The stylish Sri Lanka wicket keeper batsman Kumar Sangakkara has been appointed Captain of the Kings XI Punjab for the third edition of the “Million Dollar Baby” IPL replacing Indian poster boy Yuvraj Singh. Three new local players have been added to strengthen the squad for the upcoming IPL season. Love Ablish, right arm fast bowler from Punjab, Shalabh Srivastava, left arm seamer from Uttar Pradesh and young sensation wicket keeper batsman Manvinder Bisla from Himachal Pradesh are the additions. Former India middle order batsman Mohammad Kaif, who played for the Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural IPL and Yusuf Abdulla have been bought by the franchise during the player auction on January 19. While Australian batsman Luke Pomersbach and Sri Lankan pacer Nuwan Kulasekara were picked up ahead of the 2010 auction.

Batting
The Kings XI boast of an exciting batting line-up that has a perfect blend of experience and youth. Shaun Marsh, arguably the find of the inaugural IPL, will open the innings with young left handed Punjab Ranji batsman Karan Goel. Marsh won the Orange Cap in IPL-1 as a reward for his exploits with the bat which enabled him to top the batting statistics. His 616 runs in 11 matches in season one at an average of 68.44 and an impressive strike rate of shade under 140 included one century and five fifties. Though the Aussie opener has been ruled out of the ongoing New Zealand – Australia ODI series with a back injury, he has been named in the initial 23-man squad by the Kings XI. A lot will depend on Marsh as it is the openers that set the tone in a Twenty20 match. They even have the new kid on the block Adrian Barath to fill in the opener’s slot in case Marsh is unfit for the early part of the campaign. The young Trinidadian, who registered his maiden test ton against the Australians last year, showed great potential during the Champions League T20. His involvement in the tournament though will largely be decided by the injuries and lack of form of other overseas players in the squad.

The middle order is perhaps the Kings XI’s biggest strength which has seasoned Internationals like Sri Lankans’ Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, swash buckling Indian stalwart Yuvraj Singh and England’s big-hitter Ravi Bopara. Yuvraj and Sangakkara, who were Punjab’s best performers with the bat in South Africa with each of them scoring in excess of 300 runs, will once again have to carry the burden of their team’s batting on their shoulders. Bopara and Jayawardene might have to fight it out for the spot in the playing XI in case Marsh is fit. The former Sri Lankan skipper Jayawardene looks to be ahead in that race especially with his proven track record on the International stage. (and his compatriot Sangakkara at the helm)

All Rounders

The Mohali based franchise have struck the right chords as far as the player selection is concerned, which can be easily understood from the quality all rounders that they have at their disposal. The Australian James Hopes, who is in the Australian team battling their Trans Tasmanian rivals New Zealand, hasn’t set the stage on fire in the IPL but his all round ability with both the bat and the ball make him one of the most useful cricketers. The Indian pair of Irfan Pathan and Piyush Chawla, though known predominantly for their bowling, can make very good use of the long handle that can hurt any opposition during the end of the innings. The recent acquisition of Patiala cricketer, Reetinder Singh Sodhi further strengthens the all rounders’ department for the Kings XI. Sodhi is a hard hitting batsman, no non-sense medium pacer and an exceptional fielder. He returns to limelight after breaking ties with the rebel Indian Cricket League in which he played for the Ahmedabad Rockets.

Yuvraj Singh has emerged as the Kings XI’s prime all rounder after his bowling exploits in South Africa last year that included two hatricks, one against Royal Challengers Bangalore and another against the reigning IPL Champions Deccan Chargers (incidentally the two finalists!) to go with the 340 runs he scored. He has become a regular in the Indian bowling setup as well chipping in with useful overs and crucial wickets.

Bowling
The bowling has a lot of Indian flavor to it barring the Australian speedster Brett Lee and young South African seamer Yusuf Abdulla. Irfan Pathan is the Kings XI Punjab’s leading wicket taker in the IPL with 28 strikes and joint second overall with Shane Warne, behind compatriot RP Singh. He will have to carry his impressive IPL-2 form into the third edition and lead the attack along with the temperamental S Sreesanth. Lee, who announced his retirement from test cricket in order to prolong his career in the shorter formats of the game, has targeted the IPL to be the stepping stone for his return to the Australian ODI and T20 teams. He had missed the entire Australian summer due to an elbow injury and his fitness in the high octane IPL will be crucial not only for his chances of making to the World T20 later this year but also to his franchises’ title hopes.

Yusuf Abdulla, who played for the Kings XI during the South African edition of the IPL, has been bought by the franchise for $250,000 during the player auction. He had an impressive debut picking up 14 wickets in 9 matches at an impressive strike rate of 12. His bustling action and experience in the shortest format of the game will come in handy in the IPL.

The spin department will be taken care by the two Indian spinners Romesh Powar and Piyush Chawla. The wily off spinner Powar might have to warm the bench if the team think tank opts for a lone spinner strategy. The young Piyush Chawla had a decent IPL-2 picking up 12 wickets but he will be hoping for a much improved performance in IPL 3.0. Chawla posses an excellent googly but it is his normal leg spin that needs fine tuning. IPL 3.0 will provide him with an ideal opportunity to get back into the Indian scheme of things for the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup.

Squad of 23:

Batsmen: Kumar Sangakkara (C & WK), Karan Goel, Adrian Barath, Ravi Bopara, Mahela Jayawardena, Mohammad Kaif, Shaun Marsh, Bipul Sharma, Tanmay Srivastava

All Rounders: James Hopes, Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Manvinder Bisla (WK), Piyush Chawla

Bowlers: Romesh Powar, Brett Lee, Sreesanth, Yusuf Abdulla, Love Ablish, Vikramjeet Malik, Amarpreet Singh, Shalabh Srivastava

Support Staff: Head Coach Tom Moody, Assistant Coach Trevor Penney, Dave Nosworthy Physiotherapist Patrick Farhart

Likely Playing XI: Karan Goel, Shaun Marsh, Kumar Sangakkara (C), Yuvraj Singh, Mahela Jayawardena/Ravi Bopara, Mohammad Kaif, Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Romesh Powar, Brett Lee/Yusuf Abdulla, S Sreesanth

Players to Watch

Kumar Sangakkara: The Sri Lankan Captain was in scintillating form against India when his team toured India last year and also in Bangladesh during the tri-nation ODI series. Being the skipper, he would look to lead his team from the front which he does so admirably for his national team. Expect great things from this level headed cricketer as things heat up in IPL 3.0.

Yuvraj Singh: The Punjab south-paw has been on the sidelines since tearing a ligament in his left wrist in late January that ruled him out of the second test in Bangladesh and the whole of South Africa’s tour to India. But Yuvi, the first and only man to hit 6 sixes in an over in T20 internationals, will take to IPL as fish to water. 6 sixes in an over may not be on the cards, but fireworks are guaranteed when Yuvi is at the crease.

Adrian Barath (dark horse): The diminutive West Indian opener took the cricketing world by storm with his carefree and exciting batting style in the inaugural Champions LeagueT20 last year playing for his side Trinidad and Tobago. He could well prove out to be the surprise package of the tournament.

Schedule

Kings XI Punjab will kick start their IPL campaign by hosting last year’s beaten semi-finalists Delhi Daredevils against whom they enjoy a very good record. In the four matches that they have battled, Kings XI have come on tops on 3 occasions with the home fixture for Delhi in Cape Town last year being the only exception. After a series of away matches to RCB, Deccan Chargers and Chennai Super Kings, they host the inaugural IPL Champions Rajasthan Royals and Priety Zinty’s Bollywood buddy, Shah Rukh Khan owned team KKR. The game against Chennai promises to be a real tester for the Kings XI as M S Dhoni led side have never been beaten by the Mohali based franchise in the IPL so far. Games against R ajasthan and Kolkata, against whom they share an equal win-loss percentage, might prove out to be the ones that’ll decide whether they head into the second half of the tournament in the top half or bottom.

It is very interesting to note the superiority that Kings XI Punjab hold against teams like the Deccan Chargers (4 – 0), Mumbai Indians (3 – 1), Royal Challengers Bangalore (3 – 1) and Delhi Daredevils (3 – 1). Yet they somehow seem to be the outside contenders for the cash rich IPL trophy. With no big name new signings to speak of, Kings XI Punjab will really have to play better with the team they had for most of the last couple of seasons.

Mohali is the base of Kings XI Punjab but this year, the franchise has decided to host a couple of games in the scenic Dharamsala. The Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium in Mohali is one the best stadiums in the country with world class practice facilities, spectator stands and media provisions. Though initially the track was one of the best in the country for pace bowlers, it has now lost some of its venom and has settled down to a batsmen’s paradise. Kings XI enjoy a spectacular record at the PCA stadium winning 6 of their 7 games, a loss against Chennai being the only exception. And they would look to not only maintain that record in Mohali but also extend it to their new home in Dharamsala. The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium is arguably one of the most picturesque sporting grounds in India and will roll out the red carpet in the hope of attracting a future franchisee.

Home Games

Mar 13, 2010, Saturday, Vs Delhi Daredevils (Mohali), 8 pm
Mar 24, 2010, Wednesday, Vs Rajasthan Royals (Mohali), 8 pm
Mar 27, 2010, Saturday, Vs Kolkata Knight Riders (Mohali), 4 pm
Apr 02, 2010, Friday, Vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (Mohali), 8 pm
Apr 09, 2010, Friday, Vs Mumbai Indians (Mohali), 8 pm
Apr 16, 2010, Friday, Vs Deccan Chargers (Dharamsala), 4 pm
Apr 18, 2010, Sunday, Vs Chennai Super Kings (Dharamsala), 4 pm

Away Games

Mar 16, 2010, Tuesday, Vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, 4 pm
Mar 19, 2010, Friday, Vs Deccan Chargers (Cuttack), 8 pm
Mar 21, 2010, Sunday, Vs Chennai Super Kings, 8pm
Mar 30, 2010, Tuesday, Vs Mumbai Indians, 8 pm
Apr 04, 2010, Sunday, Vs Kolkata Knight Riders, 4 pm
Apr 07, 2010, Wednesday, Vs Rajasthan Royals, 4 pm
Apr 11, 2010, Sunday, Vs Delhi Daredevils, 4 pm

March 9, 2010 - Posted by | Indian Premier League, IPL, IPL 2010, Kings XI Punjab, Team Preview

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