IPL 6: Kings XI Punjab seek Australian spark to shine
Just because their past performances in the Indian Premier League has not been impressive does not mean that Adam Gilchrist can't prove critics wrong.
It is not easy to contend with the tag-line of being the perennial underdogs. Yet, Kings XI Punjab have survived defeats, brickbats and team changes in an unending and earnest effort to deliver a strong finish.
A strong finish though has eluded the side since 2008 which was when the team made it to the semifinals. Since, they have always languished at the bottom-half of the league table and have been mediocre at best.
The team does not lack big names though and has inspirational players in the ranks. Skipper Adam Gilchrist and new coach Darren Lehmann can form a lethal pair but in practical terms, a leader and a coach is only as good as the rest of the team.
For ardent cricket fans, it may be hard to forget Paul Valthaty's name each time IPL comes knocking. His knocks in the 2011 edition of the tournament has not yet been matched by any other batsman. Such was his prowess that he single-handedly threatened to take Kings XI Punjab out of murky waters and onto the big stage.
Apart from Valthaty, the team has enjoyed the august company of several stalwarts like Brett Lee, Simon Katich and local-lad Yuvraj Singh. Each of these players contributed in big ways before being bought over by other teams.
The team though has a lion as a mascot and truly does have a lot of courage in how it approaches IPL. Despite all the flaws and perhaps, being rated as the side least likely to win, Kings XI Punjab continues to flex muscles.
The presence of Aussie stars David Hussey, Ryan Harris and Shaun Marsh has always been a boon while local lads like Manpreet Gony, Piyush Chawla and Valthaty too can stun oppositions. The team may have had a string of skippers and coaches but Kings XI Punjab continues to be a side which sends warning signals wherever it plays.
Losing big names in auctions has not been the only unfortunate reality of this side. There have also been several controversial instances that have plagued the side since the inaugural edition of IPL.
There was the allegation of two Kings XI Punjab cheerleaders from Africa being barred from the ground due to the colour of their skin. This was followed by Punjab police alleging unpaid compensations for providing security cover.
The biggest controversy though was when the team was almost expelled from IPL after the BCCI-Lalit Modi dispute. The matter was taken to the courts and eventually, the franchise survived.
Hot players to watch out for:
Paul Valthaty: Cricket may not be all about one innings but Valthaty's 120 off 63 against Chennai Super Kings refuses to fade away from memory. Batting at the top with Gilchrist has helped the cause of this 29-year-old and though he is a bit unpredictable in terms of form, the team will be counting on him for explosive starts.
Piyush Chawla: His spin may not be good enough to earn him a place in the current national side. Chawla though can turn the ball a mile at crucial junctures to dent a chase.
Sunny Singh: Had a decent outing with the bat in the previous edition of IPL. Can knock the ball far and wide when his willow's sweet spot is tickled which means that he is a useful player to have in the business end of a match.
Adam Gilchrist: Skipper has a lot riding on his shoulders. Unable to make much of an impact to the prospects of this team despite his magnificent repute and records, Gilchrist will be itching to fight a brave battle on all fronts - with the bat, behind the stumps and all around the field.
Dimitri Mascarenhas: This English all-rounder has a riveting attitude to the format. That he can bat and bowl is a plus for the side. That he can do both with merciless aggression means that Kings XI Punjab can always bank on him to finish the match early.
Azhar Mehmood: This 'English' player contributed immensely with the ball in the previous edition of IPL. Batsmen failed to read him which made his medium-fast deliveries rattle the stumps regularly. Another player who can bat, Mehmood can be ruthless again if he comes up with a unique and new tactic for his side.
Past performance of Punjab:
2009: Group Stage
2010: Group Stage
2011: Group Stage
2012: Group Stage
Have played 72 IPL matches so far, winning exactly half that number.
Despite being weaker on paper in the previous years, Kings XI Punjab has a favourable record against Mumbai Indians (60 percent with 6 wins and 4 defeats). The only other team against whom this side has a better win record is Deccan Chargers (now Sunrisers Hyderabad) with 7 wins against 3 losses. Kings XI also has a solitary win against the erstwhile Kochi Tuskers - the only match played between the two.
The team has had four coaches since 2008 - Tom Moody (2008-2010), Michael Bevan (2011), Adam Gilchrist (2012) and Darren Lehmann (2013 - )
Pop singer Daler Mahendi is the ambassador of the side.
David Hussey has the highest salary in the side - US $ 1,400,000.
Adam Gilchrist (Captain), Love Ablish, Amit Yadav, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Siddharth Chitnis, Paras Dogra, Ryan Harris, David Hussey, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Praveen Kumar, Ryan McLaren, Vikramjeet Malik, Mandeep Singh, Shaun Marsh, David Miller, Abhishek Nayar, Nathan Rimmington, Nitin Saini, Shalabh Srivastava, Sunny Singh and Paul Valthaty.