As the third week of the Indian Premier League 2016 unfolds and teams begin to move up and down the points table, one would want to believe that this could perhaps be one of the most open-ended seasons in the tournament's brief history. However, if Kings XI Punjab are to be part of the thrilling race to the playoffs to follow, they need a swift revival of fortunes.
Their opponents of Saturday's (April 23) upcoming fixture are nearly at the opposite end of the spectrum. After a familiar underwhelming start to the campaign, Sunrisers Hyderabad have kicked on to claim two victories on the bounce and sneak into the top four.
Kings XI Punjab's failure can largely be attributed to the dwindling form of skipper David Miller and Glenn Maxwell. The duo has managed a combined tally of just 75 runs in four outings, their non-performance bulking up the pressure on the rest of the batsmen. Even in a poor start, Manan Vohra's form and intent, however, have been the bright spots for the Kings XI.
Among the bowlers too, the foreign recruits have been inconsistent. Recently-retired Mitchell Johnson and South African pacer Kyle Abbott have struggled to lead the way, leaving the bulk of the workload on the shoulders of the likes of Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma. Even Axar Patel, who picked up 13 wickets in 14 matches last season, has had a lukewarm start this year.
On a batting-friendly wicket in Hyderabad, against one of the stingiest bowling attacks, Kings XI Punjab have their task cut out. Unless Miller and Maxwell take charge of the proceedings, the job of stopping Sunrisers from claiming their third successive win will be a tough one.
As for Sunrisers, the momentum is on their side but it remains to be seen how well they can react on the account of a failure for David Warner. The Australian opener, and the skipper of the Sunrisers, has scored three half-centuries in four outings and has carried his bat in both the wins.
Against Kolkata Knight Riders, Warner's failure resulted in a top-order collapse and an eventual sub-par target that Gautam Gambhir & Co. chased down.
If Warner falls early again, it will be interesting to see how the likes of Moises Henriques, Eoin Morgan, Naman Ojha, Aditya Tare and Deepak Hooda react to the situation.
When: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Kings XI Punjab, April 23, 2016, Match 18, 8 PM IST
Where: Rajiv Gandhi International stadium, Hyderabad
What to expect: Clear skies expected, with a maximum temperature of 28 degrees celsius in the evening
Warner & Co. brought in Aditya Tare in place of Ashish Reddy in the previous fixture, perhaps, to add to their batting. The Mumbai wicketkeeper-batsman didn't get to contribute but is likely to hold his spot as spin duo of Bipul Sharma and Deepak Hooda is capable of covering up for Reddy's four overs of medium pace. The same line-up that trounced Gujarat Lions in Rajkot is likely to take on David Miller's side.
Kings XI Punjab
Kings XI Punjab's quest to find the right combination goes on. While Miller and Maxwell have been two of the overseas constants, the likes of Marcus Stoinis, Kyle Abbott and Mitchell Johnson have been in and out of the side. Shaun Marsh's late entry into the fray adds to the complexity of this equation.
A half century in what was his first game of the season will ensure the management retain him in a line-up of misfiring batsmen.
Should they bring back Johnson on a batting-friendly track at Hyderabad where the hosts' trio of pacemen - Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mustafizur Rahman and Barinder Sran - have worked well or should Kyle Abbott be handed the responsibility? Only time will tell.
What they said:
David Miller: Mood in the camp is really, really good. We've been keeping positive at all times - win or lose. We've had one-and-half days off. And it's good to be in Hyderabad. Nice and hot. But the boys are ready.
Did you know?
Sunrisers Hyderabad hold a 4-2 advantage over Kings XI Punjab in IPL. In Hyderabad, Kings XI have won all their three games against Deccan Chargers, while they have lost two and won one against Sunrisers.
Kings XI have lost 16 wickets in the middle overs in four matches - the most by a team. Their middle order (3-6) averages 17.23, the worst among all teams in this IPL.
In his last 25 IPL matches, Maxwell has scored just one fifty for Kings XI. In this year's IPL, he has just 38 runs in four innings with a highest score of 32 not out.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Shikhar Dhawan, Ricky Bhui, Trent Boult, Moises Henriques, Deepak Hooda, Abhimanyu Mithun, Siddarth Kaul, Mustafizur Rahman, Naman Ojha, Karn Sharma, Tirumalsetti Suman, David Warner, Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra, Ashish Reddy, Bipul Sharma, Ben Cutting, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Eoin Morgan, Vijay Shankar, Barinder Sran, Aditya Tare, Kane Williamson
Kings XI Punjab: David Miller, Anureet Singh, Farhaan Behardien, Rishi Dhawan, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma, Pardeep Sahu, Swapnil Singh, Murali Vijay, Kyle Abbott, Armaan Jaffer, Cariappa, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Shaun Marsh, Nikhil Naik, Wriddhiman Saha, Sandeep Sharma, Marcus Stoinis, Shardul Thakur, Manan Vohra