A revamped Kings XI Punjab begin their season opener of VIVO IPL 2018 against the Delhi Daredevils. KXIP missed last season’s Playoffs by a whisker, while DD finished sixth in the eight-team table.
KXIP retained only one player (Axar Patel) during the retention window and then strung together a new-look side by signing up players at the Auction. The off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been handed the captaincy of the team, which now has a good mix of exciting young performers and international stars. The KXIP coaching staff and captain Ashwin – who is the only ‘bowler captain’ in this IPL – have the difficult task of choosing the eleven players who can do the job on the day, and assign them to roles they’re comfortable playing, while also maintaining the balance and meeting the four overseas players criteria. Despite Aaron Finch’s unavailability for the opening game, KXIP still have four quality openers in Chris Gayle, Karun Nair, KL Rahul and the in-form Mayank Agarwal; which two will walk out to open the innings & how the others adapt to middle-order roles will be interesting to watch. Yuvraj Singh, David Miller& Marcus Stoinis make up a solid middle order.
In the run up to this season, Delhi Daredevils brought onboard Ricky Ponting as coach and then retained three players during the retention window, namely Rishabh Pant, Chris Morris and Shreyas Iyer. At the auction, DD made some excellent purchases – including roping in Gautam Gambhir (who would thereafter be named captain), Glenn Maxwell, Colin Munro and Trent Boult. Maxwell though will be unavailable to the team for the opening game due to personal commitments.
The Delhi Daredevils have not progressed past the league stage in the last four seasons; their owners and supporters will be hoping this team, under Gautam Gambhir – who has previously led the Kolkata Knight Riders to two titles, can put an end to that streak and win some silverware.
8 April 2018, 1600Hrs (IST)
IS Bindra Stadium, Mohali
Chris Gayle is 38 years old now and may not be the consistent match-winner he once was, but the Universe Boss – a last minute signing for Kings XI Punjab – still has the ability to destroy bowlers and run away with matches single-handedly. The left-hander has expressed his intention to ‘hurt the bowlers’; so bowlers beware! Among the others in the KXIP line-up, one should keep a close watch on Mayank Agarwal – who created a storm in the domestic cricket season in India, and his state teammate KL Rahul.
In the Delhi Daredevils line-up, captain Gautam Gambhir could be expected to play the role of accumulator, while the stroke-makers in Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Colin Munro will be expected to bat with freedom and go after the opposition bowlers.
Kagiso Rabadawas expected to be the leader of the DD bowling attack, but just days prior to the team’s opening game, the South African was ruled out of the competition with an injury. It is expected that DD will bring in the Kiwi left-arm pacer Trent Boult, with the hope he can combine with Chris Morris and Mohammed Shamiin causing damage with the ball. Andrew Tye can be expected to the leader of KXIP’s bowling attack, while skipper Ashwin and Axar Patel will be expected to tie down the opposition batsmen. KXIP also have in their ranks the mystery kid from Afghanistan– Mujeeb ur Rahman, though it is unlikely the 17-year old will be thrown in the deep end immediately.
Team Head to Head
Overall: Matches – 20, Kings XI Punjab won – 11, Delhi Daredevils won – 9
At the IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali: Matches – 5, Kings XI Punjab won – 4, Delhi Daredevils won – 1
Ravichandran Ashwin has never before captained a team in Twenty20 cricket. His opposite number Gautam Gambhir is the second-most experienced captain in the IPL; he has been captain in a total of 123 matches.
Kings XI Punjab’s Mayank Agarwal scored an unprecedented 2232 runs in the recently concluded domestic cricket season in India.
If Chris Gayle makes the Kings XI Punjab playing XI, it would be the 23rd team he would have represented in T20s.
Delhi Daredevils’ Rishabh Pant was the joint-highest run-getter in this season’s domestic T20 competition; he scored 411 runs in 10 innings at a strike-rate of 195.71.
In 9 T20 Internationals so far this year, Colin Munro has scored a total of 396 runs at an average of 49.50 and at a strike-rate of 193.17.
Kings XI Punjab will travel to Bengaluru for their first away fixture of VIVO IPL 2018; they take on Royal Challengers Bangalore next on April 13. The Delhi Daredevils meanwhile play the second of their five back-to-back away fixtures on April 11 when they take on Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur.
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