Chris Gayle is itching to walk out to the middle. He very well could on Thursday night at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Maybe his return could turn things around for a desperate Kings XI Punjab, which takes on an increasingly confident Royal Challengers Bangalore. The 41-year-old universe boss is expected to take advantage of the small boundaries in what is going to be his first match of this edition of the IPL. He can of course hit over the ropes without much of an effort on any ground, but at Sharjah, even his mishits could go for six.

It would be interesting to see where he bats, though. If he has to open, the hugely successful firm of K. L. Rahul and Mayank Agarwal will have to be split up.

RCB vs KXIP | Head-to-head record, players to watch out for

Rahul (387) and Mayank (337) are leading the batting charts, but those mountains of runs haven't translated into points. Kings XI has only won one match thus far. It is therefore placed at the rock bottom, so it cannot afford another loss.


Maybe it could take heart from the fact that its only win of the season came against RCB. Virat Kohli's men have come a long way since that 97-run defeat ; they are now third on the table.

On the other hand, KXIP has forgotten how to win since then. It will need Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi and other bowlers to deliver.

It won't be easy, though, against a quality batting side that is in form. Kohli, AB de Villiers, Devdutt Padikkal and Aaron Finch have already some fine knocks behind them.

RCB's bowlers have rarely let their captain down. Spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar and pacers Navdeep Saini, Chris Morris and Isuru Udana could trouble any batting line-up.

The squads

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers (wk), Parthiv Patel, Aaron Finch, Josh Philippe, Chris Morris, Moeen Ali, Mohammed Siraj, Shahbaz Ahmed, Devdutt Padikkal, Yuzvendra Chahal, Navdeep Saini, Dale Steyn, Pawan Negi, Isuru Udana, Shivam Dube, Umesh Yadav, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Washington Sundar, Pavan Deshpande and Adam Zampa.

Kings XI Punjab: K. L. Rahul (c), Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Chris Gayle,  Karun Nair, Deepak Hooda, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Glenn Maxwell, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Sarfaraz Khan, Sheldon Cottrell,  Harpreet Brar, Ishan Porel, Mandeep Singh, James Neesham, Tajinder Singh, Chris Jordan, Mohammed Shami, Darshan Nalkande,  M. Ashwin, J. Suchith, K. Gowtham, Hardus Viljoen and Prabhsimran Singh.