IPL: Punjab eye fresh start against newcomers Gujarat (Preview)

Mohali, April 10 (IANS) Gujarat Lions will hope to get off to a winning start in their debut Indian Premier League (IPL) season when they take on a Kings XI Punjab outfit eager to shake off a disappointing 2015 campaign at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium here on Monday.

Gujarat have entered the IPL along with Rising Pune Supergiants as replacement for the two suspended franchises Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. Pune started their campaign on a resounding note with a nine-wicket win over defending champions Mumbai Indians in the inaugural match of of the ninth IPL season.

The IPL newcomers Gujarat Lions have a number of big hitters in their squad, including the likes of skipper Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum, James Faulkner, and Aaron Finch. They also have excellent all-rounders in Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja, apart from Faulkner.

The Lions’ bowling also wears a strong look with South African veteran Dale Steyn as the main star. Steyn will be expected to lead the pace atack along with the Australian duo of Faulkner and Andrew Tye. Pravin Kumar, Pradeep Sangwan and Akshdeep Nath are the other pacers in the side.

Punjab, on the other hand, will be hoping to recover from a poor 2015 IPL season when they finished at the bottom of the points table despite boasting a promising line-up.

This season, Punjab will be without the services of explosive opener Virender Sehwag and former skipper George Bailey. While Sehwag announced his retirement late last year, Bailey went unsold at the auction this year.

In the absence of the star duo, Glenn Maxwell is expected to be the batting mainstay. The hard-hitting Australian was one of the leading stars of the 2014 campaign when Punjab reached the final. Maxwell endured an extended run of poor form last season and will be keen to make amends this year.

Punjab captain David Miller, Murali Vijay and Wriddhiman Saha were in good knick in the 2015 IPL and will be expected to come up with major contributions this time as well. Experienced Australian left-hander Shaun Marsh is also among the options in the batting department.

They also have a couple of talented all-rounders in Farhaan Behardien and Marcus Stoinis.

Kings XI have bolstered their bowling with the addition of experienced South African pacer Kyle Abbott and promising Indian medium-pacer Mohit Sharma. Abbott during South Africa’s tour to the sub-continent late last year has shown that he can be a handful in Indian conditions. Sharma was a revelation at the 50-over World Cup in Australia last year and carried his good form into the IPL where he claimed 14 wickets.

Veteran Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson will probably be used as an opening pacer along with Abbott. The 34-year-old Australian has not played competitive cricket since his international retirement last November. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to get into his groove quickly and play an effective role as the leader of the pace attack.

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