They endured a disastrous run the last time around to finish at the bottom of the heap and Kings XI Punjab would be aiming to make amends this season when they begin their campaign against newbies Gujarat Lions in their IPL opener. (Suresh Raina Says Playing for New Team in IPL is Like Leaving Old House)
Kings XI Punjab did not make any big buys this year and have a new captain in South African David Miller in place of Australian George Bailey who was released after leading the side to the last place in the previous season. (Gujarat Lions Owner Keshav Bansal Happy With Squad)
Virender Sehwag has also retired and he will only be the team mentor this season.
The Preity Zinta-owned side continues to lack the team balance as it has not added any significant player, only snapping the likes of all-rounders Farhaan Behardien and Marcus Stoinis, seamer Mohit Sharma and left-arm spinner Swapnil Singh.
Last season, their batsmen lacked consistency and whenever they did well, the bowlers let the side down.
On the other hand, debutants Gujarat Lions have a balanced side with top-class performers in both batting and bowling.
They have explosive batsmen in Brendon McCullum, captain Suresh Raina, Aaron Finch and a plenty of top-notch all-rounders in Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and James Faulkner.
These T20 specialists can be dispersed through the order and some of them like Raina and Bravo can anchor or attack. Bravo, along with Faulkner, is a high-quality, death-overs bowler as well.
But the weak link for the Gujarat side could be the pace-bowling department as they don’t have any big name –Indian or overseas — except for South African Dale Steyn.
The side’s pace department are made up most of by medium pacers.
It will also have to be seen whether Steyn will make the final eleven tomorrow, considering his poor form in the T20 format recently. Besides, only four overseas players are allowed in the line-up.
For Kings XI Punjab, a big responsibility would lie on the shoulders of the likes of Miller, Maxwell, Shaun Marsh, Murali Vijay and Mitchell Johnson.
Miller has very little captaincy experience — he has led a side only thrice in domestic cricket — and he will also have to do the heavy lifting in the batting line-up along with Maxwell.
Manan Vohra looks set to open with Vijay, despite their poor run last year. Kings XI also have the option of Shaun Marsh, who has been part of their set-up since the inception of the league.
The spin department will have Axar Patel and Maxwell, who has often been considered a frontline option by Australia. Gurkeerat Singh, Swapnil Singh and KC Cariappa can provide the back up.
Johnson, Sandeep Sharma, Mohit Sharma and Kyle Abbott will be the main pace bowlers but they need to start afresh in the gruelling IPL.
Sandeep had missed the entire Indian domestic season in 2015-16 because of injury, while Mohit sustained one of his own during the Vijay Hazare Trophy and was subsequently ruled out of India’s limited-overs tour to Australia, the Asia Cup, and World T20.
Johnson, who was retained in the squad, has not played competitive cricket since his international retirement last November.
Kings XI Punjab: David Miller (Capt.), Kyle Abbott, Murali Vijay, Manan Vohra, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Anureet Singh, Axar Patel, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Pardeep Sahu, Sandeep Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Marcus Stoinis, Swapnil Singh, Armaan Jaffer, Farhaan Behardien, KC Cariappa, Rishi Dhawan, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Nikhil Naik, Shardul Thakur
Gujarat Lions: Suresh Raina (Capt.), Dwayne Bravo, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Dale Steyn, Pravin Tambe, Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Shadab Jakati, Dinesh Karthik, Shivil Kaushik, Dhawal Kulkarni, Praveen Kumar, Pradeep Sangwan, Jaydev Shah, Umang Sharma, Andrew Tye, Sarabjit Ladda, Akshdeep Nath, Amit Mishra, Paras Dogra, Eklavya Dwivedi.