Northern rivals Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils aim to end their trophy drought in the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League 2018. The two franchises will face each other in their opening matches on April 8 and will look to prevail victorious over the other.
Despite containing an all-round squad, the Daredevils chances have always seemed slim near the play-offs and the same goes for the Kings XI who also have an empty cabinet after 10 seasons despite having one of the most powerful batting line-ups over the years.
Under new leaders Gautam Gambhir (Delhi) and Ravichandran Ashwin (Punjab), both outfits will want to make a fresh start and make the most of the talent pool they have in their ranks.
Hosts Punjab have the explosive Chris Gayle in their ranks and his exploits in the IPL are well documented. The burly West Indian, though in the twilight of his career, should fancy his chances with Mayank Agarwal who is likely to open with him.
Agarwal will have a point to prove after being snubbed by national selectors for the Sri Lanka tri-series despite amassing more than 2,000 runs during the domestic season.
Team India opener KL Rahul, the most expensive player of the franchise who will also don the gloves, and Yuvraj Singh should also add teeth to Punjab's batting while the finishing responsibilities will lie on the trio of David Miller, Marcus Stoinis, and Axar Patel.
Off-spinner Ashwin, ignored in white-ball cricket since the advent of wrist-spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, will lead the bowling for his side with Axar being the second spinner and the three pacemen Andrew Tye, Mohit Sharma and Ankit Rajpoot.
Coming to Delhi, a lot will depend on Gambhir who has proved himself to be an astute leader in the T20 format having led Kolkata Knight Riders to two IPL titles (2012, 2014).
Colin Munro will partner Gambhir up top, while the likes of Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Glenn Maxwell will look to add power to Delhi's batting.
All-rounder Vijay Shankar and Chris Morris are the two all-rounders and much will depend on how the latter performs as he is a seasoned campaigner in this format.
A lot of limelight will also be on India seamer Mohammed Shami for his recent off field incidents but he is expected to share the new ball with the New Zealand pacer Trent Boult.
The two spinners for Delhi will be Amit Mishra and Shahbaz Nadeem, who have been decent performers for the franchise in the past as well.
Tye and Boult will be the quicks to watch out for. Tye's skills will be on show in the middle overs and it will be a challenge for the Delhi batsmen to pick his knuckleballs which he disguises so very efficiently.
In the head-to-head count, Punjab lead Delhi 11-9.
KXIP: Ravichandran Ashwin (Captain), Axar Patel, Yuvraj Singh, Karun Nair, Lokesh Rahul, Chris Gayle, David Miller, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Manoj Tiwary, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb Zadran, Barinder Sran, Andrew Tye, Akshdeep Nath, Ben Dwarshuis, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar, Manzoor Dar.
DD: Gautam Gambhir (Captain), Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Chris Morris, Glenn Maxwell, Kagiso Rabada, Amit Mishra, Shahbaz Nadeem, Vijay Shankar, Rahul Tewatia, Mohammad Shami, Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Daniel Christian, Jason Roy, Naman Ojha, Prithvi Shaw, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Avesh Khan, Abhishek Sharma, Jayant Yadav, Harshal Patel, Manjot Kalra, Sandeep Lamichhane, Sayan Ghosh.
(With IANS Inputs)