IPL veteran Chris Gayle is still learning at Kings XI Punjab
IPL veteran Chris Gayle in training at Kings XI Punjab Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: The Kings XI Punjab will have to find some quick answers heading into their next encounter against the Kolkata Knight Riders in the early match of the 2020 IPL, in Abu Dhabi, on Saturday.

With their five losses and a solitary win, KXIP are currently placed at the bottom of the table with two points, whereas KKR are fourth with six points from their three wins.

Though boasting a strong batting line-up that includes the self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle, KXIP have struggled this season, languishing at the bottom of the standings on two points.

The team has struggled to perform as a unit, but there have been no lack of individual performances as skipper KL Rahul still leads the top scorers list with 313 runs and seamer Mohammed Shami is fourth alongside Mumbai Indians’ James Pattinson among the bowlers with nine wickets heading into Friday’s match between Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals.

Through all this, Punjab need to find the answers and plug the holes, and this needs to be done now. On Thursday, KXIP were totally outplayed by Sunrisers Hyderabad as the South Indian side walked away early with a 69-run drubbing.

Heading into the early match on Saturday, KXIP may continue relying on their trusted opening pair of captain Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. And then to follow has been the entertaining Nicholas Pooran, who was amazing against Sunrisers bowlers on Thursday.

But the lack of form of Glenn Maxwell has been worrying, and his bizarre run-out against SRH did nothing to help his confidence on the slower wickets in the UAE.

Hopefully, the Kings could look at a solution through hard-hitting and entertaining Gayle. However, the West Indies man has been down for the past few days with a bout of food poisoning, but he is expected to make his first appearance in the tournament bringing in a lot of cheer and joy among its huge following of fans.

That said, the death bowling has been a major concern for KXIP, and they would need to get it right against a strong KKR batting line-up.

The KKR team looks more of an all-round unit, while balancing a fine blend of youth and experience. Led by Dinesh Karthik, KKR struggled initially after losing their opener to Mumbai. But, they bounced back with a couple of wins against Sunrisers and Rajasthan Royals.

A second loss followed against Delhi, and yet again, KKR proved they’ve got their act together following their 10-run win against three-time champions Chennai Super Kings earlier this week. Rahul Tripathi was the man around whom the KKR innings of 157-5 was built as the 29-year-old from Ranchi smacked 81 off 51 deliveries, including three sixes and eight fours.

Then there is the young Shubman Gill, who has already created an impression as an opener with 163 runs to his name from five matches so far. With Tripathi as an option, KKR have the experienced Eoin Morgan, Nitish Rana and the hard-hitting Andre Russell in the middle.

The biggest cause of concern for the two-time champions is the form of their captain Karthik, who is yet to make a substantial contribution with the bat.

But Karthik’s captaincy has been excellent, especially in their last game against CSK as it was his deft bowling changes that made all the difference as Chennai tried to chase down a modest total. With world No. 1 Pat Cummins leading the pace attack, KKR have the young duo of Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi as able supporters in search of early wickets.

The spin department on these slower UAE wickets has been ably guided by Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy, the Tamil Nadu player who will be riding high on confidence after bowling out MS Dhoni in their last match.