Wounded Kings XI aims for win against Dhoni’s RPS

Two defeats in as many games, the rising mercury and travelling back to base meant Kings XI Punjab was expected to take it easy on the eve of its game against Rising Pune Supergiants here on Saturday. The team did not turn up for practice even as RPS turned out in full force.

Dhoni might tweak the bowling combination as Ashwin went wicketless in the previous game and the pace trio of Ishant Sharma, RP Singh and Mitchell March were fended off with ease.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Two defeats in as many games, the rising mercury and travelling back to base meant Kings XI Punjab was expected to take it easy on the eve of its game against Rising Pune Supergiants here on Saturday. The team did not turn up for practice even as RPS turned out in full force.

Perhaps it was as well, given that there would be quite a few niggles that KXIP, at the bottom of the table, would be hoping to work out after the eight-wicket loss to Delhi Daredevils. The team’s might on paper has not translated on to the field and skipper David Miller would be wondering on getting his team right against an opponent that boasts as many match-winners as the number of players in its ranks. Not to forget the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

One of those match-winners would be Kevin Pietersen but the big-hitting batsman admitted that big names don’t always mean big wins. “They have got a very good team on paper, we have also got a very good team on paper. But you don’t win games of cricket on pieces of paper, you win them on the performances of the individuals in the team,” he said while talking about RPS’s five-wicket loss in its previous game against Gujarat Lions.

Bowling problems

That game saw R. Ashwin go wicketless and the pace trio of Ishant Sharma, RP Singh and Mitchell March fended off with ease. It would be a toss up between continuing with Sharma and Singh or look at bringing in a replacement – Dhoni has Irfan Pathan, Albie Morkel and Ishwar Pandey at his disposal.

Barring Sharma and Morkel — yet to get a game — none of the others inspire much confidence. Among the spinners, leg-spinner M. Ashwin has performed decently enough to be on track to earn his captain’s trust. Even so, Dhoni would be more concerned about his bowling than batting, which has enough firepower from Ajinkya Rahane at the top all the way down to the bottom, something Pietersen agreed to. “We do have names from 1 to 11 we have got names at 12, 13, 14 ,15 but you can lose games of cricket,” he reminded.

For KXIP, the letdowns so far have been its foreign recruits. For a team that has some of the biggest names in the shortest format of the game, the foreign players are yet to pull their weight. Glenn Maxwell and David Miller haven’t fired yet while in bowling, Mitchell Johnson is still getting used to coming back into action after retirement.

Add to that the fact that barring Murali Vijay and local hope Manan Vohra at the top of the batting, KXIP doesn’t have enough big-game Indian players. The likes of Sandeep Sharma, Mohit Sharma or Shardul Thakur do not inspire confidence — neither do Axar Patel or Pradeep Sahu. In the IPL, despite the best of foreign names, no team has won the tournament with a weak core of local talent.