Both teams are in the bottom half of the points table. Kings XI Punjab’s struggles are perhaps greater at the moment as evident from the last match where the team slumped badly.
In fact, against Chennai Super Kings, the Kings bowling was flayed to all parts of the ground by openers Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis who remained unbeaten in taking their team to victory.
Suffering the biggest defeat so far in this tournament will weigh heavily on the Kings bowlers and captain KL Rahul. As it is, apart from Mohammed Shami and Ravi Bishnoi, the bowling has looked weak and leaked runs aplenty in almost every match.
The big letdown for Kings so far has been the non-performance of overseas stars Glenn Maxwell, Jimmy Neesham and Chris Jordan. Left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell has been like the curate’s egg, good and bad in parts. Maybe it is time to get Mujeeb-ur-Rehman in the playing XI.
The only overseas player to have redeemed himself somewhat has been Nicholas Pooran, the exciting West Indian left-hander who’s played a couple of dazzling knocks. But even in the batting, Punjab have otherwise been heavily dependent on Rahul and Mayank Agarwal.
While these have been exceptional, it is virtually impossible for a side to win consistently in this format on the strength of just 2-3 players. Others have to chip in fast, if Kings have to raise themselves from the floor.
That said, Sunrisers have problems of their own. Injury to Bhuvneshwar Kumar – who has been ruled out of the tournament – is a body blow. Bhuvi’s fine skills and rich experience were invaluable to the side.
In his absence, Sunrisers attack looks beleaguered, and overly dependent on Rashid Khan. The Afghan leg-spinner has been in top form, but without support for him, the batsmen will be left chasing Himalayan scores, or unable to stop other teams from overhauling their totals.
In the previous match, Bhuvi’s replacement Siddarth Kaul went for 64 runs. Young T Natarjan has bowled well, but Sunrisers look weak in the bowling department, which can ease the pressure on opposing batsmen.
In the batting department, Sunrisers are better served, but will want more from their overseas recruits – captain David Warner, Jonny Bairstow and Kane Williamson – as well as Manish Pandey who’s looked in good nick without rising to the heights expected of him.
Against Mumbai, Warner waged a solo battle. If results of matches played in this tournament so far and the fate of teams is any indication, this is not enough to win consistently.
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator