Will debutant Gujarat Lions make an immediate impact?

The second new team in the IPL, Gujarat Lions, led by Suresh Raina, will play its first match of the competition against a settled-looking outfit in Kings XI Punjab.

Gujarat Lions players (from left) James Faulkner, Dwayne Bravo, Brendon McCullum and Dale Steyn warm up at the PCA stadium in Mohali.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

It is time again for the Indian Premier League, the annual razzmatazz that follows a predictable course with a promise to provide more excitement and entertainment than it did in the previous edition. Funnily, it is also time for the captains and the performer of the day to come up with some cliché-ridden revelations all through the 50-day extravaganza.

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After eight seasons, it is easy to find any winning captain looking to “carry on the momentum” and losing skipper “taking the positives from the match.” The performing bowlers talk of “bowling in the right areas” and the batsmen, after a good day at work, are most likely to underline the significance of “enjoying your cricket” or “expressing yourself in the middle.”

In short, the predictable far outweighs the unexpected, both on and of the field in the competition.

Shining debutant

The brief history of IPL points to the debutants making their presence felt, just like Rising Pune Supergiants did on Saturday night. It could well be the turn of first-timer Gujarat Lions to mark its attendance, of course with a victory, at Kings XI Punjab’s home turf here on Monday night.

The visiting team may have been forced to vacate its hotel on Sunday, following tremors with its epicentre in Afghanistan, but is unlikely to yield any ground to the host.

Gujarat, led by Suresh Raina, holds the edge with three allrounders – Dwayne Bravo, James Faulkner and Ravindra Jadeja – strengthening the spine and making it appear taller. Names like Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Smith, Andrew Tye and Dale Steyn completes the list of carefully picked overseas players.

Add to it some experienced medium pacers like Dhawal Kulkarni, Pradeep Sangwan and Praveen Kumar who provide quite a few options to Raina and coach Brad Hodge. Among the young aspirants, some will surely grab their share of fame.

Yagya for Kings XI

Punjab, mentored by Virender Sehwag, prayed for divine support after holding a yagya outside the home team’s dressing room at the I. S. Bindra Stadium on Sunday. Like last year, Preity Zinta was present at the time of the lighting of the holy fire. Remember, in 2015, Punjab finished last in the eight-team league.

Under new skipper David Miller, the side has retained its Aussie regulars – Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson – and believes that it has the resources to beat the best. Upfront, M. Vijay and Manan Vohra can be explosive. Allrounders like Axar Patel and 32-year-old South African Farhaan Behardien also add to the options.

The pace attack looks reasonably good but the lack of quality offspinner could hurt the team.