Ravi Ashwin’s men will take on the undefeated-Sunrisers Hyderabad tomorrow night in an attempt to bring down the league leaders on their home turf. Some may say Hyderabad have gotten off to a fortunate start in IPL 11, but if you take a look at who they’ve beaten in their first three matches, luck has nothing to do with it when you knock off Rajasthan, Mumbai and Kolkata consecutively.
Kings XI Punjab are well & truly on the up after numerous seasons of disappointment, finally they look like a team who can finish in the top four on the points table. After two games of absence, West Indian superstar Chris Gayle made his return to the biggest franchise in the world with an almighty bang, smashing a rapid-fire 63 runs off 33 deliveries to help his team defeat the Chennai Super Kings just recently. It’s mindboggling that the 38-year-old wasn’t a first choice selection in their opening two matches, they were quick to cover up their mistakes after electing to play both Marcus Stoinis and David Miller ahead of Gayle. After that crucial innings against Chennai, Chris Gayle looks set to hold his spot for a considerate amount of time now after showing team management why he’s on the big bucks in the IPL every year. It’s a different story for Australian opener Aaron Finch though, after arguably the best week of his life he’s flown over to India and had an absolute-doozy of a start for his new side. Yep, it doesn’t get much worse than back-to-back golden ducks for a specialist batsman, Finch was always hinted to be a certain starter for Punjab but could possibly be dropped after a horror-start to his tournament. Karun Nair has been a reliable & very-handy contributor in the middle order so far, contributing scores of 50, 29 & 29 in the Kings XI’s three-completed games. The bowling however has been a worry, it hasn’t affected the outcome of a match too often but looms as a liability if they don’t start finding form. The spinners aren’t a concern, Skipper Ravi Ashwin and Mujeeb Ur Rahman are keeping the runs to a minimum whilst taking wickets, it’s the seamers who have been quite costly in between dismissals. Both Mohit Sharma and Andrew Tye are quality bowlers, but they’re giving away far too many runs for only three wickets each in the tournament.
Looking to make it four wins on the trot, Hyderabad could quite-possibly be undefeated 16 matches into the 2018 IPL. Opposition sides have struggled to work out how to overcome the Sunrisers in 2018, usually the old theory behind their team would be “if you get David Warner out, you’re pretty much on your way to winning the match”. Without the explosive Aussie opener, they’ve found plenty of other scoring outlets which really has given them the edge over their opponents. Some of the standout performers in the batting line-up this season include Shikhar Dhawan who is averaging 65 and was particularly impressive in the Sunrisers first two matches, along with Hyderabad captain Kane Williamson who’s averaging 45 batting at No. 3. If you haven’t caught a glimpse of Kane Williamson’s batting technique yet, take a trip to youtube because he’s the most elegant stroke maker in the world apart from Virat Kohli, when it comes to scoring runs the New Zealand skipper is all class. Someone who’s been particularly-underwhelming to say the least has been Manish Pandey, everyone’s looking at each other wondering where his batting form has gone from last season’s comp with the Knight Riders. Making the move from Kolkata with Pandey was Yusuf Pathan who can play a similar finishing role to Andre Russell in a lesser-extent, but he’s a handful when the ball starts flying over the fence at the back end of an innings. A defining-factor of why Hyderabad are where they are on the standings has to be the good work the bowlers are currently producing, wickets are a certainty in this attack. Leader of the attack Bhuvneshwar Kumar picked up three wickets in his return, tall-fast bowler Billy Stanlake is only getting better as the tournament progresses and leg-spinner Rahsid Khan has added plenty to the team once again. Medium pacer Siddarth Kaul has been surprisingly effective in IPL 11 so far, he’s bagged five wickets in three games along with Shakib who has also played his part taking five scalps in the tournament as well. Hyderabad have wicket-taking options left, right and centre, even Sandeep Sharma played his part filling in for Bhuvneshwar against Mumbai claiming two wickets as well, they have an extraordinary amount of depth this year.
Top 5 fantasy picks | Kings XI Punjab | 16th match | Chandigarh
- KL Rahul
- Ravi Ashwin
- Karun Nair
- Chris Gayle
- Andrew Tye
Wildcard pick – Yuvraj Singh
Top 5 fantasy picks | Sunrisers Hyderabad | 16th match | Chandigarh
- Bhuvneshwar Kumar
- Shikhar Dhawan
- Kane Williamson
- Rashid Khan
- Shakib Al Hasan
Wildcard pick – Yusuf Pathan
Kings XI Punjab
Consecutive first-ball ducks for Aaron Finch might see Punjab bring back one of David Miller or Marcus Stoinis who are more accustomed to batting in the middle order, then again they might give the 31-year-old one more match to turn things around. The bowling attack requires some maintenance as well, that could possibly open the door for 24-year-old medium pacer Ankit Rajpoot with Mohit Sharma under the pump having conceded 92 runs in his past two games. Punjab also has the option to bring back Axar Patel as that third-spinning option if need be.
With Wriddhiman Saha contributing just enough runs at the top of the order so far, Alex Hales is again unlikely to break into this unbeaten-Sunrisers XI with all the overseas players contributing what is needed of them at the moment. The talented Manish Pandey has scored just 15 runs in two innings, not ideal but Hyderabad are expected to persist with him simply because they have no better options to replace him, plus his 396 runs for the Knight Riders in 2017 indicates he’s an X factor when the runs start flowing off his bat. It’s hard to see them making any changes for this match, although teams in the IPL do have a tendency to rotate players regardless of an individual’s form guide.
Kings XI Punjab (possible) – 1. KL Rahul (wk) 2. Chris Gayle 3. Mayank Agarwal 4. Yuvraj Singh 5. Aaron Finch/David Miller/Marcus Stoinis 6. Karun Nair 7. Ravi Ashwin © 8. Andrew Tye 9 and 10. Two of Barinder Sran/Mohit Sharma/Ankit Rajpoot 11. Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Sunrisers Hyderabad (possible) – 1. Wriddhiman Saha (wk) 2. Shikhar Dhawan 3. Kane Williamson © 4. Manish Pandey 5. Shakib Al Hasan 6. Deepak Hooda 7. Yusuf Pathan 8. Bhuvneshwar Kumar 9. Rashid Khan 10. Siddarth Kaul/Sandeep Sharma 11. Billy Stanlake.
Zak Varik is an Australian columnist/writer who specializes in the sports category cricket. With over four years of experience covering all sorts of cricket tournaments around the world, Zak has gained extensive knowledge in International cricket as well as domestic.
“I’ve loved watching cricket since I was about 7 years old, my childhood hero was none other than Andrew “Roy” Symonds who probably enhanced my love of the game through the years”.
Zak is now an established writer for FCN (Fantasy Cricket News) and has also previously represented other Blogs during his time as a writer.