Ravichandran Ashwin ‘Mankanding’ Jos Buttler has not only triggered a debate over the spirit of cricket, but has also pointed to the cut-throat competition and high stakes involved in the Indian Premier League.
For a franchise that has managed to be the semifinalist once and runner-up once, Kings XI Punjab's desperation to grab a respectable finish is understandable.
KXIP will get on to the Eden Gardens with the same killer instinct, which enabled it to disturb Rajasthan Royals' promising run chase in its backyard, in its next meeting with Kolkata Knight Riders here on Wednesday.
READ| Ashwin has no regrets in 'mankading' Buttler
KXIP's biggest strength is its captain Ashwin — a fiercely competitive and a thoroughly astute cricketer — who showed glimpses of his leadership skills a year ago and displayed it fully in the match against RR.
A hands-on skipper, Ashwin knows how to mobilise his resources well and do everything within the rules to thrive in the survival-of-the-fittest race.
While an in-form Chris Gayle and young Sarfaraz Khan inspire confidence, the availability of hugely talented Karnataka duo of K.L. Rahul and Mayank Agarwal and Punjab captain Mandeep Singh ensures enough firepower in the batting line-up.
By fielding five full-time bowlers and rotating them nicely in crunch situations against RR, Ashwin displayed his team’s capability to stifle the opposition.
KXIP will have to raise its game again against KKR, which is on a high after securing a sensational victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in its first outing.
Match winner Andre Russell unleashing his muscle power early has given KKR a lot of confidence. Even without Russell, the host has enough personnel — including Chris Lynn, Nitish Rana, captain Dinesh Karthik and Shubman Gill – to put up a formidable total.
KKR’s enviable bowling department, studded with spinners like Kuldeep Yadav, Piyush Chawla and Sunil Narine, will stand the team in good stead. Narine, who had hurt his finger during KKR’s fielding against SRH, bowling at the nets on Tuesday must be a feel-good factor for the home side.
KKR has some advantage due to the presence of a few all-rounders, who may play crucial roles in the fixture.
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