A new look Kings XI Punjab under Ravichandran Ashwin will take on Delhi Daredevils in their opening encounter of IPL-2018 in Mohali today, as both sides look to begin the T20 tournament on a winning note.
This season, KXIP look a balanced side with Ashwin set for his maiden stint as captain of an IPL team. It has players of the calibre of Yuvraj Singh, Chris Gayle, David Miller, K L Rahul and Aaron Finch not to speak of the likes of Manoj Tiwary, Mohit Sharma, Axar Patel and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman.
Barring a few who have been retained, most of the domestic and some foreign players have joined the team this season.
Punjab mentor Virender Sehwag rated the new-look team as the best of all seasons.
“We have the best side, if I compare last ten years,” Sehwag said, adding that the team is a balanced one with a right mix of Indian and foreign players.
Punjab’s captain in the previous season, Glenn Maxwell will now turn up for the opposition side and so will Rahul Tewatia and Gurkeerat Mann.
Both Sehwag and head coach Brad Hodge heaped praise on Ashwin, even though captaining an IPL side may be the off-spinner’s maiden role, and feel that a “smart cricketer” like him will inspire the team.
K L Rahul, who was bought for Rs 11 crore by KXIP, is focused to help the team lift its maiden title.
KXIP’s best finish in the decade-old tournament has been to reach the finals in 2014.
Inconsistency in their performance has been a cause of concern for the Punjab outfit and the team will have to overcome this aspect if they want to finish on top this time.
There can be a fair amount of spotlight on players like 17-year-old Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb-ur-Rahman and 24-year-old all-rounder from Kashmir, Manzoor Dar, the second cricketer after Parveez Rasool from the Kashmir Valley to make it to the IPL.
Delhi Daredevils share similarities with Punjab team, as they too have struggled in the last few seasons.
DD’s head coach Ricky Ponting has exuded optimism and said that he doesn’t care about his team’s dismal record over 10 editions of IPL as he believes that the “fresh group” of players have it in them to win a maiden title this season.
Delhi reached semi-finals twice in their first three seasons.
The Gautam Gambhir-led side has an ideal mix of youth and experience. Gambhir has helped his previous outfit Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to clinch titles on two occasions.
Delhi have retained wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant and opener Shreyas Iyer.
All-rounders Chris Morris and Glenn Maxwell will lend depth to Delhi’s bowling and batting department. With the likes of Gambhir, Colin Munro, Shreyas Iyer, Jason Roy and Prithvi Shaw, the side has the ability to go for big totals.
Delhi Daredevils: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Shreyas Iyer, Sandeep Lamichhane, Manjot Kalra, Glenn Maxwell, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Chris Morris, Colin Munro, Shahbaz Nadeem, Naman Ojha, Rishabh Pant, Harshal Patel, Jason Roy, Vijay Shankar, Prithvi Shaw, Rahul Tewatia, Jayant Yadav, Abhishek Sharma, Avesh Khan, Trent Boult, Daniel Christian, Sayan Ghosh, Gurkeerat Singh Mann.
Kings XI Punjab: Ravichandran Ashwin (captain), Yuvraj Singh, Mayank Agarwal, Mayank Dagar, Aaron Finch, Chris Gayle, Manzoor Dar, David Miller, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Karun Nair, Axar Patel, Lokesh Rahul, Marcus Stoinis, Manoj Tiwary, Andrew Tye, Ben Dwarshuis, Ankit Rajpoot, Pardeep Sahu, Mohit Sharma, Barinder Sran, Akshdeep Nath.
Match Starts: 4pm IST.