Kings and Lions have a lot to prove

While Gujarat Lions is coming on the back of a morale boosting win, Kings XI has to recover from a difficult defeat against Mumbai Indians.

Gujarat Lions’ Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja have their task cut out.   -  PTI

Minutes after leading the Gujarat Lions to a famous victory at the Eden Gardens on Friday night, captain Suresh Raina revealed to the Indian Premier League's official website that he had asked his team-mates to “restart” a tottering campaign.

Come Sunday and while Raina's rangers will be hoping to continue in the same vein, their opponent, the Kings XI Punjab, will need to reboot what has been a ride that's on the verge of derailing in the first half itself.

The aggressive combination of director of cricket operations Virender Sehwag and captain Glenn Maxwell got off the blocks with back-to-back wins at home in its first two games. However, since then, the team has suffered four consecutive losses. If it doesn't reverse the trend at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium on Sunday evening, that will virtually put the team out of contention for a top-four finish.

No doubt that even during its losing streak, the Kings has seen some outstanding individual brilliance with the willow. Manan Vohra almost pulled off an improbable victory against Sunrisers Hyderabad single-handedly,while Hashim Amla's century in Indore on Thursday will surely be one of the highlights of the IPL's tenth edition. Still, the Kings team somehow hasn’t managed to get its balance right, especially in the bowling department.

KXIP has tried out five Indian pacers in its six games so far but none of them – including Varun Aaron, T. Natarajan and the Sharma triumvirate of Mohit, Sandeep and Ishant – have been able to put brakes on the opposition’s scoring rates. The fact that Aaron's economy rate of 8.90 is the best among the lot explains the team’s predicament. It would be interesting to see if it forces the Kings XI to rejig its policy of playing four overseas batsmen in the XI on Sunday and try out lanky New Zealander Matt Henry.

Despite the high on Sunday, the Gujarat Lions will also be scratching its head about its spin bowling department. Sunil Narine's wicket that Raina took on Friday night was only the second scalp by a Lions spinner this season. While Ravindra Jadeja has been ineffective with the ball, picking a solitary wicket for a whopping 162 runs in 16 overs, the lesser said about the other Indian spinners the better it is. It will not be surprising to see Raina turning his arm over more in the remaining tournament and the Lions preferring to not include any other specialist spinner than Jadeja, just like it did in Kolkata.

Besides the combination issues, both the teams will have to cope with extreme dry heat of Rajkot, with mercury set to rise to mid-40s at the start of the early game. It will be interesting to see which team turns the heat on its opponent.

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