AjeyoLAST UPDATED: Sept. 20, 2020, 5:16 p.m.
Dubai, Sep 19: The second game of the 13th Indian Premier League (IPL) will be played between two of the most inconsistent performers of the tournament to date -- Delhi Capitals (DC) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP). Both are yet to win a title in 12 attempts.
After a lackluster outing in the first 11 seasons of the lucrative league, the Delhi franchise renamed their team, from Delhi Daredevils to Delhi Capitals, in December 2018 and that turned out to be lucky for them.
Last season, Delhi's seven-year wait to enter the play-offs ended when Shreyas Iyer led from the front and took his team into the qualifiers. They eventually went down to the CSK and crashed out.
After an impressive outing last year, DC retained most of their core players, namely Shreyas, stumper Rishabh Pant, and pacer Kagiso Rabada. The franchise, however, released some under-performers like Colin Munro, Colin Ingram, and Chris Morris.
DC then acquired the services of Alex Carey and Jason Roy to strengthen their batting while Chris Woakes, Mohit Sharma, Lalit Yadav, and Tushar Deshpande were added to the bowling unit. The franchise also showed a lot of faith in Shimron Hetmyer and Marcus Stoinis after bagging them at a high price.
Besides, DC also signed experienced Ajinkya Rahane and ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
Axar Patel, Marcus Stoinis, and Chris Woakes are the all-rounders for Delhi while the pace department features Rabada, Ishant Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Avesh Khan, and Harshal Patel.
Delhi's good show in 2019 mostly revolved around their batsmen Dhawan, Pant, and Shreyas as the trio featured in the list of top-10 run-getters while their bowlers failed to click, except Rabada, who scalped 25 wickets from 12 games.
The team management will surely expect them all to replicate the show this year again and with Ashwin and Amit Mishra in their spin attack, Delhi could pose some serious challenge for their opponents on the low and slow tracks in the UAE.
On the other hand, KXIP is one of the few teams that always look good on paper before a season starts. However, the players fail to deliver the goods when it matters. They always have had some quality players in their ranks, but they somehow lost the plot in most of the previous tournaments, except on two occasions. They entered the semi-finals in the opening edition in the 2008 season and finished as runners-up in 2014 after losing to KKR in the summit clash.
KXIP is one of the three teams -- Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and DC being the others --who are yet to lay their hands on the IPL trophy.
Dashing India opener KL Rahul will lead KXIP after the franchise released Ashwin. The team showed faith in Glenn Maxwell, Sheldon Cottrell, James Neesham, Deepak Hooda, Ravi Bishnoi, Chris Jordan, and youngster Ishan Porel. While Maxwell will surely strengthen the middle order, Cottrell and Neesham will take the charge of Punjab's pace attack.
Also, KXIP has Chris Gayle in their top-order and he can turn any game single-handedly. However, Gayle's inconsistency to fire could be a problem and if he finds the rhythm early in the season, Rahul's men could be a big threat for any opponent and on any track. A lot will also depend on how Gayle and Rahul open the innings for KXIP.
In the bowling department, experienced Mohammed Shami will lead the pace attack along with Cottrell and Hardus Viljoen. Ravi Bishnoi, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, and mystery spinner Murugan Ashwin will look after the spin attack.
The Punjab franchise also boasts of some quality personnel when it comes to the support staff, with former India captain Anil Kumble taking over as their head coach and former South Africa star Jonty Rhodes as fielding coach. The two are considered among the best cricketing brains, and apart from the former India opener Wasim Jaffer and ex-India spinner Sunil Joshi are the batting and spin bowling coaches respectively.
When KXIP performances are evaluated over the years in the IPL it becomes clear that their main weakness had been to click as a unit when it matters. If KXIP looks for a decent run this season, the team needs to fire on all fronts collectively.
Overall, considering the hot and humid conditions, with the tracks in the UAE likely to assist spinners, Delhi seems to have a slight advantage against their opponents.
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (captain/wicket-keeper), Karun Nair, Mohammed Shami, Nicholas Pooran, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, Chris Gayle, Mandeep Singh, Mayank Agarwal, Hardus Viljoen, Darshan Nalkande, Sarfaraz Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Harpreet Brar, Murugan Ashwin, K Gowtham, J Suchith, Glenn Maxwell, Sheldon Cottrell, Deepak Hooda, Ishan Porel, Ravi Bishnoi, James Neesham, Chris Jordan, Tajinder Dhillon, Prabhsimran Singh, and Harpreet Brar
Delhi Capitals: Shreyas Iyer (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Alex Carey, Jason Roy, Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Shikhar Dhawan, Shimron Hetmyer, Axar Patel, Chris Woakes, Lalit Yadav, Marcus Stoinis, Keemo Paul, Amit Mishra, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada, Mohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Sandeep Lamichhane, and Tushar Deshpande