With most of their first-choice players suffering from injury, Kings XI Punjab face an uphill task to put it across Delhi Daredevils in their IPL season-3 opener here on Saturday.
Punjab team has appointed new captain in Kumar Sangakkara to replace the local boy Yuvraj Singh and Sri Lankan skipper’s first task would be to see his team through against a dangerous Delhi side, which boast of players like captain Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, and T20 specialist David Warner to name a few.
Yuvraj, the dashing left-hander and experienced campaigner in this format of the game, who has the record of hitting six sixes in a Twenty20 international to his credit, has been nursing a wrist injury he picked up during India’s tour of Bangladesh and his participation in the opener looks extremely doubtful.
Shaun Marsh, Punjab’s success story in IPL inaugural edition, also looks unlikely to be fit for the start and in his absence Sangakkara might open the innings along with young Punjab Ranji batsman Karan Goel.
Their most expensive overseas player, fast bowler Brett Lee is also beset with fitness problems and might have to wait for a couple more games before making return to high-voltage cricket since announcing his retirement from Test cricket early this year.
Punjab chances in the match heavily depend upon the performance of Sangakkara and his compatriot Mahela Jayawardena, who has been in wonderful touch in the recently concluded Sri Lanka’s Inter-Provincial Twenty20 tournament.
Mahela amassed 293 runs in six matches with four half-centuries.
Sangakkara was the team’s second highest run-scorer in South Africa with 332 runs at 30.18, with two half-centuries, while Jayawardene proved of immense value in a couple of extremely tight chases.
England batsman Ravi Bopara and India discard Mohammad Kaif will have to provide stability in the middle-order. Kaif, who represented Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural edition of IPL in 2008, would be desperate to get back into the groove after being left out in the cold.
The Indian trio of Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla and Romesh Powar would aim to cause some serious damage lower down the order with their pinch hitting and restrict the Daredevils from scoring heavily while bowling.
In Lee’s absence, new recruit Yusuf Abdulla would look to share the new ball with Sreesanth and Pathan.
Punjab have signed up four domestic players – the medium-pacers Love Ablish and Shalabh Srivastava, batsman Manvinder Bisla and all-rounder Reetinder Sodhi and team would be hoping them to perform to their fullest.
On the other hand, Daredevils would be looking to get rid of their “chokers” tag after failing to get past the semifinals in the previous two IPLs. With a top order boasting of players like Gambhir, Sehwag and Australian import Warner and bowling attack comprising of Ashish Nehra, Dirk Nannes and Wayne Parnell, they would be hoping to kick start their campaign on a victorious note.
Tillakratne Dilshan, AB De Villiers and Dinesh Karthik lend the depth in the middle-order and have the potential to tear any bowling attack to shreds.
Especially, De Villiers comes with an added advantage as he was part of the South African squad during their recent one-day international series against India where he scored couple of centuries.
Karthik is very skillful in the shorter version of the game and his ability to score runs at a brisk pace down the order makes him a dangerous batsman to be looked after.
Nehra and Nannes have the ability to trouble the batsman, especially on a bouncy Mohali track with their swing bowling. Nannes had performed particularly well in South Africa for the Daredevils and Nehra would be looking to make early inroads in the Punjab’s batting line-up with the new ball.
Parnell’s inclusion in the side will give some added boost to the pace attack, while a lot will depend on Amit Mishra to provide breakthroughs with his spin.