IPL 2018: Reborn Chris Gayle and rise of Mujeeb Ur Rahman have lit up Kings XI Punjab's title dreams

Denzil Pinto 14:43 24/04/2018
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Good so far: Kings XI Punjab/Image: Twitter -Indian Premier League

Kings XI Punjab’s four-run win over Delhi Daredevils on Monday wasn’t their most convincing success of the IPL this season. But a win is a win and it’s something that they are making a bit of a habit of with five triumphs in six matches so far. That form deservedly sees them sit atop of the standings with 10 points, a two-point cushion over second-placed Chennai Super Kings.

There’s still a long way to go before they can even think about lifting the title on May 27 but the signs are already there that they could be a serious challenger for the IPL crown after coming so close in 2014.

Here, we look at why Kings XI should be optimistic about their chances.

CHRIS GAYLE REDISCOVERING HIS FORM

Royal Challengers Bangalore thought Chris Gayle‘s best days were over when they released a player who had scored more IPL tons (five) and half-centuries (19) than anyone else.

But, the West Indian, who initially went unsold for the first two rounds, has proved them wrong by letting his bat do the talking in some style for his new employers. His release has been Kings XI Punjab’s biggest gain and although he didn’t feature in the first two games, the ‘Universe Boss’ wasted no time in showing what he’s made of with three sensational innings.

His 63 against Chennai Super Kings was his second-fastest IPL 50 off just 22 balls while he went even better in his next outing with his sixth IPL century (104) in the win over Sunrisers Hyderabad. His unbeaten 62 against Kolkata Knight Riders means he’s now the fifth highest run-scorer in the competition with a staggering strike-rate of 170.89.

A ‘sore’ injury saw him miss the game against Delhi but as his scores suggest, he looks back to his best and that bodes really well for Kings XI.

COMBINATION OF MUJEEB UR RAHMAN AND ANDREW TYE

The fact that Mujeeb Ur Rahman only made his international T20 debut two months ago in February and is now mixing it with the world’s best, speaks volumes of how highly-rated the Afghan spinner is.

Having already made history by becoming the youngest player to feature in the IPL, aged 17 years and 11 days old, he didn’t waste much time to showcase his bowling skills by taking his first wicket with his third ball against Delhi two weeks ago. He’s gone on to become a key player and today, has six wickets to his name including the last-ball scalp against Delhi that sealed victory for his side on Monday.

While Mujeeb can do the damage with the spin, Andrew Tye has been doing exactly the same with his pace. A few eyebrows were raised when the Australian was bought for a hefty price tag of  $1.4 million AUS in the auction. However, the 31-year-old seems to be well worth the investment. He has hardly put a foot wrong, claiming four two-wicket hauls in as many matches.

RAVICHANDRAN ASHWIN’S CAPTAINCY

Having completely revamped their squad with only Axar Patel retained, Ravichandran Ashwin had a big task of leading from the front. History would suggest they would find it difficult to be a competitive force especially with two-time champions Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals returning to the fold after a two-year ban. But in Ashwin, Kings XI have an experienced international and one who knows how to win IPL. He may not have been quite effective as he would have liked to with the ball but his captaincy decisions on the field seem to be spot on.

MAKING MOHALI A FORTRESS AND ABILITY TO WIN AWAY FROM HOME

Delhi Daredevils, Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad have all made the trip to Mohali but came away with nothing as Kings XI Punjab have been dominant on their own patch. On the road, they’ve been impressive as well with wins over Kolkata and Delhi while their only defeat coming against Royal Challengers Bangalore in their second game.

The early signs show they have the ability to win in any stadium but as the competition progresses, there will be even more at stake. Despite sitting top of the league, nothing is done and dusted yet with two tests against three-time champions Mumbai Indians to come as well as visits to Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad.

But, as long as they build on this encouraging start and maintain the momentum going into the business end of the tournament, there’s no reason why Kings XI faithful can start dreaming of IPL success.

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