Armed with aspirations and a younger squad, Kings XI Punjab hits the 2019 VIVO Indian Premier League road with a visit to Jaipur's Sawai Mansingh Stadium to face Rajasthan Royals on Monday.
Kings XI Punjab
Last season, the Royals' home advantage meant they came up trumps by 15 runs and while the head-to-head record may tilt in Rajasthan's favour, it's important to note that KXIP have won their opening games in the last two IPL campaigns; and would go all guns blazing to make that a hat-trick. With a new look squad coupled with a few experienced campaigners, the Shers look in good stead to challenge the Royals at their home turf this time around.
Batting da Baadshah
For the Shers, last season’s star performer KL Rahul will be instrumental heading into the 2019 season-opener. And the Karnataka batsman seems to enjoy playing against the Rajasthan Royals, having scored a cumulative of 179 runs in last season’s two games without being dismissed even once!
The home team, however, have a formidable opener in their ranks as well in Jos Buttler. The Englishman scored a match-winning 82 in last year’s game at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium and is fresh off scoring a big century in the Caribbean. Heading into a new season, Buttler continues to be one of the main batting threats for any team facing the Royals.
Bowling de Kings
Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Kings XI Punjab’s Afghan Sher Mujeeb Ur Rahman picked five of his 14 wickets last season against Rajasthan Royals. The mystery spinner was the bane to most IPL teams last season and will continue being one of the prime bowlers for KXIP, alongside captain Ravichandran Ashwin.
For the Royals, all-rounder Jofra Archer will be their main bowler for this season alongside the likes of Jaydev Unadkat and Ben Stokes. Archer finished with 15 wickets last season, including the scalps of Chris Gayle and Karun Nair when he faced KXIP last season. The all-rounder however tends to lean towards the expensive side when it comes to the Indian Premier League.
Mudde ki Baat
In a franchise tournament like the IPL, getting off to a good start is integral as it helps build the team momentum, easing the qualification pressures in the process. Therefore, KXIP would be hoping for a good start of KL Rahul and the in-form Universe Boss Chris Gayle, along with a tight bowling performance from the likes of Ashwin and Mujeeb to stay on top of the game. Playing on a ground that hasn’t been very successful for the Shers, it is necessary that all their big guns fire to get the team across the line and build momentum.
For Rajasthan, playing at home and having a full squad available for selection will be the greatest advantages, with former captain Steve Smith returning to the team. However, they would be guarded against this young and extremely unpredictable Kings XI Punjab side who are well and truly capable of springing up a surprise.
- Chris Gayle has been in brilliant form of late, averaging 106.00 for the Windies in the recently concluded ODI series against England in the Caribbean.
- Mayank Agarwal scored an unbeaten 85 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy final to guide Karnataka to the title.
- Mujeeb picked up seven wickets in just four games for Afghanistan in their ODI series-win over Ireland.
Chris Gayle, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Mandeep Singh, Karun Nair, Sam Curran, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Mohammed Shami, Varun Chakravarthy, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Gayle and Rahul were one of best opening pairs in the IPL last season, with Agarwal playing at three to provide stability to that power packed top-order. The trio of Pooran, Mandeep and Nair are all adept with negotiating the tricky middle overs as well as play the finishers role. Sam Curran slots in as the all-rounder to allow the team to play their three most valued spinners in Chakravarthy, Ashwin and Mujeeb. Indian pacer Shami, impressive in the tour of Australia and New Zealand, can be the auxiliary fast bowler to open the bowling attack and complete the line-up.
NOTE: The aforementioned line-up is an educated guess at best, and the final decision rests with the captain and the team management depending on various external factors.