With another season of the VIVO Indian Premier League round the corner, coach Mike Hesson and captain Ravichandran Ashwin would be scratching their heads trying to get their winning combination right. The game against Rajasthan Royals at Jaipur on March 25 will provide a few answers on what the think tank has been envisioning for the season, but we can always deduce what could work for the 2019 VIVO IPL opener and beyond.
Top pe tashan
With a plethora of talent at their disposal, it would be difficult for any player to cement himself in the role of the opener. Last season's destructive duo of KL Rahul and Chris Gayle remain the favourites to continue their stint at the top. However, Mayank Agarwal -- who performed so admirably in India's tour Down Under -- has an equally competent case to the opener's role. Kings XI Punjab's other West Indian, Nicholas Pooran, also proved his mettle in the T10 League in November last year and could stand to partner 'Universe Boss' Gayle with Rahul strengthening the middle. The 17-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Prabhsimran Singh also stakes a claim for the opener's role with his fearless approach to batting. The team management could also play a googly by using the likes of Moises Henriques or Sarfaraz Khan up top. So plenty to begin with...
Middle da Riddle
The Kings XI management did some astute business at the auction by acquiring players who can be extremely flexible anywhere in the top seven. Punjab's Ranji captain Mandeep Singh and India's second triple centurion Karun Nair would be the mainstays of the KXIP middle-order, with explosive southpaw David Miller expected to play the role of a finisher. Any one of Rahul, Agarwal or Pooran can slot into the middle if not chosen up top as well. For the all-rounder's role, KXIP have a surfeit of options. England's baby-faced assassin Sam Curran or Vidarbha pacer Darshan Nalkande could play at No. 7 if the pitch favours the quicks while Ashwin or Punjabi munda Harpreet Brar could perform that role on turning tracks.
Spin da King
This is a department where the Shers have always been well stocked. Last season's heroes captain Ashwin and Mujeeb ur Rahman virtually pick themselves. To add to their firepower is the auction's joint-most expensive player Varun Chakravarthy who is bound to leave the batsmen bamboozled with his myriad variations. Even the likes of Murugan Ashwin and Harpreet could be employed on spin friendly tracks or if the frontline spinners fail to make an impact.
'Seam' de la crème
In the fast bowler category, last season's Purple Cap winner Andrew Tye walks into the playing XI nonchalantly. India's veteran pacer Mohammed Shami also seems indispensable; however, his workload might be reduced with the World Cup in mind. Last year's star performer Ankit Rajpoot looks favourite to be the auxiliary Indian pacer; but faces stiff competition from newcomers Arshdeep Singh, Darshan Nalkande and Agnivesh Ayachi. The foreign stars Sam Curran and Hardus Viljoen might also be in the thoughts of the team management, but their inclusion could hamper the team balance due to the cap on overseas players.
|OPTION 1||OPTION 2||OPTION 3|
|Chris Gayle||KL Rahul||Nicholas Pooran (wk)|
|KL Rahul (wk)||Mayank Agarwal||Chris Gayle|
|Mayank Agarwal||Mandeep Singh||KL Rahul|
|Karun Nair||David Miller||Mandeep Singh|
|David Miller||Sam Curran||Moises Henriques|
|Sam Curran||Sarfaraz Khan||Prabhsimran Singh|
|Ravichandran Ashwin (c)||Ravichandran Ashwin (c)||Darshan Nalkande|
|Harpreet Brar||Andrew Tye||Ravichandran Ashwin (c)|
|Andrew Tye||Mujeeb Ur Rahman||Andrew Tye|
|Varun Chakravarthy||Ankit Rajpoot||Murugan Ashwin|
|Mohammed Shami||Mohammed Shami||Varun Chakravarthy|
NOTE: The aforementioned line-ups are an educated guess at best, and the final decision rests with the captain and the team management depending on various external factors.
Over to you: What does your playing XI look like? Let us know in the comments below.