Between the two skippers who would walk out for the toss at the PCA stadium, David Miller, the Kings XI Punjab skipper, will ostensibly be the more worried man. His team has lost two matches on the spin, and lost them woefully, the first to newcomers Gujarat Lions and the second to Delhi Daredevils.
Another defeat, though not fatalistic, could further disarray their season. Though Miller’s counterpart MS Dhoni too had lost the previous encounter, Rising Pune Supergiants have been remarkably composed. They don’t seem like team that’s prone to losing habitually; but Punjab do resemble such a side, tentative and edgy, waiting to be unraveled.
In both their previous matches, RPS scored at more than eight an over and lost just six wickets combined. Punjab, on the other hand, couldn’t quite post challenging totals. Against Gujarat, on a placid surface, they squandered a bright start while in Delhi they fell as much as to the guile of Amit Mishra as a sluggish surface. Not that they don’t have explosive batsmen — Glenn Maxwell and Miller himself are more than capable — but somehow there batting line-up doesn’t exude any assurance, as opposed to Pune’s. A batting unit that comprises Ajinkya Rahane, Kevin Pietersen, Dhoni, Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh can’t be trifled at. Punjab bowlers have a heady task to contain them.
It’s high time someone other than Mitchell Johnson stepped up for Punjab. Presently, theirs is a one-horse attack, with their performance directly hinging on the Aussie’s performance. And the Aussie hasn’t quite made an impact so far. The two Sharmas-Mohit and Sandeep-have shone sporadically while the spinners have been quite ordinary. If Axar Patel and Mohit can reprise their form of 2014, they surely will be a more effective unit.
Dhoni’s bowlers were a tad undisciplined against the Lions–gave away more than 60 runs in the power play–but it seemed more of an aberration. Ishant Sharma looked sharp in the opening match while Ravichandran Ashwin has refound his captain’s trust. His accomplice Murugan Ashwin has made a strong impression as well. Marsh was under-utilised in the last match, but has a penchant for breaking partnerships. And unlike Punjab, they have a bowling unit that can thrive on any condition, and options on the bench.
News from the bench
RPS won’t be urged to tweak their side-the only possibility being Albie Morkel replacing Marsh–while there’s a lot on Punjab’s platter. What might eventually deter them from making wholesale changes is their lean domestic resources. But they might dabble with the idea of giving Marcus Stoinis the nod. In that case, Johnson could be the casualty.