Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali
Two Kings, poles apart with respect to their league records, take on eachother in their second game of this season. This is an interesting matchup for many reasons, not least because they have had contrasting first games. Also, any game with the Super Kings playing- with their vast galaxy of stars and expertise- is always interesting to watch.
Kings XI Punjab:
At best, Kings XI have been a midtable team, underdogs really, in every season except the inaugural league back in 2008- where they lost to Rajasthan in the semi finals after finishing second in the group stages. In the following seasons, without the continual presence of their best batsman Shaun Marsh- and with Adam Gilchrist blowing hot and cold after retirement- the team has struggled to stay at the top of the table in the first half of every season. So often, they then face an uphill battle- where they always fall a game short by the end of the league stages. Last year, they came painfully close, until these same opponents led by Dhoni sneaked into the eliminator after beating them in a heartbreaking last league game. With the inclusion of veteran Azhar Mahmood (the only Pakistan-born player in the league), the Kings XI have looked a stronger team since 2012- and consistently cause a few upsets.
The game against Pune Warriors, where young Indians Mandeep Singh and the impressive Manan Vohra stepped it up, was the first time the Kings XI won their opening game of a season in their 6 years. X-factor: Mandeep Singh. The second Mohali boy, along with Manan Vohra, was the young player of the season of 2012. He had an impressive season, and looked good in the first game too, where he steadied the ship with Vohra while displaying an impressive array of shots.
Chennai SuperKings (2-time Champions):
Dhoni led from the front against the Mumbai Indians on Saturday, but his team imploded around him. His innings was laced with intent and aggression- and his teammates Raina, Vijay and Jadeja must learn from their ridiculous shotmaking and play to their strengths if they have to win at Mohali. Dhoni might think about promoting himself up the order sometime soon, but he will be impressed with the form of his bowlers- namely Dirk Nannes. R Ashwin is always reliable, but the Super Kings are yet to find a balance that will make them invincible. They have never been great beginners to a season, and have lost to Mumbai Indians twice now in their opening games.
X-Factor: Murali Vijay. He has to make up for the daft paddle sweep he played on Saturday, and should look to stick to his strength- conventional cricketing shots that have gotten him 2 league hundreds over the years.
Prediction: Tough one to call so early, but one would have to say that CSK start favorites again. They need their opening batsmen to fire, and they will be tough to beat.