Can Ashwin And Hesson The Perfect Anti-couple? > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Can Ashwin and Hesson make the perfect anti-couple?
It's intriguing how undersold being boring is. Even something like surfing, a far cry from how the world defines boring as, needs you to master the prone position, paddling, and the final pop-up before you may want to surf on your own. "Don't bend your back", "Bend only at the knees", "Stay perpendicular to the whitewater" - yes, how much fun!
But there's so much adventure that awaits beyond the monotony of boredom. Kings XI Punjab commendably tried to break out of that mould in 2018, taking cricket's tried-and-tested formulae for something of an outdated dossier and rebelled with good returns, only to come crashing down in the latter half of the tournament. And it was quite a fall: from the top of the table, to finish second-last.
All they have to do now is look back at who won last year, and how. There's no better way to do things correctly, and there's no point trying to do the correct things differently. Over-invested in trying to be different, KXIP were out of gas when other teams stepped it up last year, so don't be surprised if they have a bit more method to their madness this year. Being boring is what they couldn't be in 2018.
Ravichandran Ashwin is an astute captain who's also ready to run into the wild, which is why Mike Hesson's appointment as the head coach becomes so much more significant. He can be the restrain KXIP can do with, the antidote to everything bold and beautiful that Ashwin brings to the table.
And then there are 13 new players in a 23-man strong squad, which will allow the team a fresh lease of reputation that goes beyond how good their opening batsmen are. The auctions weren't perfect for them but it doesn't mean that the season can't be.
Possible Starting XI: Chris Gayle, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Mandeep Singh, Sam Curran, R Ashwin, Varun Chakravarthy, Andrew Tye, Mohammed Shami, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Others in the squad: David Miller, Simran Singh, Nicholas Pooran, Sarfaraz Khan, Murugan Ashwin, Ankit Rajpoot, Hardus Viljoen, Arshdeep Singh, Moises Henriques, Darshan Nalkande, Agnivesh Ayachi, Harpreet Brar
Strengths: What else but the opening combination
"Don't you remember what happened in our first home game last season?" asks KL Rahul in one of KXIP's social media campaigns. It's not surprising to see this season start hung over on Rahul's 14-ball half-century against Delhi Capitals, still the fastest half-century in IPL. And then there's Chris Gayle, who with his recent form makes for a devastating opening pair, that will be hell bent on making a satire out of Mohali's long square boundaries.
Weaknesses: Still the middle order
Yuvraj Singh, Aaron Finch, Manoj Tiwary and Axar Patel were all released before the auction, which in turn, made efforts to address the soft middle order last. But are we really any better this season? If Chris Gayle, Andrew Tye and Mujeeb Ur Rahman are all sure starters in the playing eleven, there's only one overseas spot left between Sam Curran and David Miller. You would imagine that Curran, with his price tag, plays ahead of Miller, which means Mandeep Singh is the only other major shake-up to a middle order that couldn't quite cut the mustard in 2018.
Varun Chakravarthy, Ashwin, Andrew Tye, Mohammed Shami and Mujeeb Ur Rahman make for a longish tail. The ground fielding, too, can be a bit of a worry.
Opportunities: For the World Cup absentees
The irony lies in opportunities for those not on World Cup radar. Sam Curran was bought for a whopping INR 7.2 crores at the auction and has a chance to be IPL's heartthrob beyond the auction room. All it takes is a season for a player, more so a seam-bowling all-rounder, to make IPL his own for many seasons to come. This is Curran's chance.
KXIP rotating their openers won't come as a huge shock, considering Gayle's fitness and KL Rahul's need for some rest before he has a shot at being India's third opener at the World Cup. There's opportunity for Mayank Agarwal then, who was more than underwhelming last season, and Prabh Simran Singh, the 18-year-old bought for INR 4.80 crores, to stand up and get noticed.
It's also an opportunity for Varun Chakravarthy, bought for INR 8.4 crores, to make his first IPL more about him than about his paycheck or about his oft-talked mystery. He has the perfect spin-bowling captain at the helm, who for a while last year looked like forging a real spin mean machine before Mohali's flat pitches and Mujeeb's injury threw a spanner in the works. In Axar Patel's absence, Varun can be an important one-third of the spin troika.
Threats: A bench wet behind the ears
Spending a hefty fraction of your purse on relatively unknown players is a testament to IPL's faith in its own scouting system, but there's a risk KXIP might have been too far-sighted for their own good. What they have is a bench full of young players, acquired at hefty price tags but who might still need some time on the sidelines before they really start to get the IPL. Can they be relied upon in a season just before a World Cup, when differently aligned priorities may mean a greater role for the entire squad and not just the team?
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