The 4th match of IPL 2017 will feature Kings XI Punjab playing host to Rising Pune Supergiant at their newly designated home venue – Holkar Stadium, Indore. It will be the first game of the season for KXIP whereas RPS are already amongst the points after their emphatic win over Mumbai Indians in their first game.
Both teams had a torrid time during the last season as RPS and KXIP occupied the 7th and the 8th position on the points table respectively. As far as their head to head battles are concerned, it’s even stevens as both teams won one game apiece in the previous two meetings.
RPS have already got off to a great start this year and they would look to carry the momentum against KXIP who, on the other end, would be hoping to make amends after their dismal show in the previous season.
Here is a look at key battles between the two teams ahead of the all-important game:
#1 Glenn Maxwell vs Steve Smith
It will be a battle of the two Aussie captains. Maxwell replaced Murali Vijay as the KXIP skipper whereas Smith took over the job from MS Dhoni for RPS.
There was plenty of talk when Maxwell was selected for the job despite having experienced international captains in the squad like Eoin Morgan and Darren Sammy. The Punjab side have had a number of skippers over the years and the expectations on the hard-hitting batsman will be immense. It would be interesting to see how he handles the responsibility having no experience with the role before.
Smith, on the other hand, has been the regular captain of the Australian side in Tests as well as ODIs. Before the game against MI, Smith had last played a T20 in May 2016. However, he transferred his Test form to the shortest format and played a match winning 84 to put the controversy surrounding Dhoni’s sack to rest for a while.
The Aussie influence in both teams is bound to raise the aggression level and it will be intriguing to watch which one of them would emerge victorious.
#2 MS Dhoni vs Axar Patel
Axar Patel does not have a great history of bowling to the former Indian captain. It was in the last league match between these two teams in the previous season where Dhoni took the left-arm spinner to the cleaners and helped his side avoid bottom spot on the points table.
In the last encounter between the two, Dhoni was facing up to Axar when 23 runs were required off the last over. The odds looked highly in favour of KXIP amidst the constant questions being raised over the capability of Dhoni to finish matches.
But he proved once more why he is regarded as the best finisher of all time. He hit three sixes and a four in the over to take his side home – two sixes came off the last two balls when 12 were needed from two balls.
Generally, Axar is regarded as an economical bowler but that day he encountered a great man at the peak of his powers. Whether Axar can make a comeback and put that over behind him remains to be seen.
#3 David Miller vs Imran Tahir
It will be another battle featuring two wonderful players from the same country. Miller, who has been an integral part of the KXIP squad for a number of years, will be up against Imran Tahir, who is the latest inclusion in the RPS squad.
The leg-spinner began on a brilliant note in the first game against MI where he picked up three wickets for 28 runs and was the pick of the bowlers for his side. His spell was crucial in halting Mumbai’s progress.
Miller, on the other hand, would be playing his first game and hoping for a good start to the season. He must have faced Tahir several times in the nets in the past and would know of all the tricks that he possesses. But Tahir is the number one T20 bowler for a reason and he must be having a few tricks to tackle Killer Miller.
#4 Ben Stokes vs Marcus Stoinis
Whenever an Aussie is up against an Englishman, there are bound to be some fireworks. The Australian, Stoinis, and the Englishman, Stokes, are premier all-rounders for their respective teams and it will be a battle for supremacy.
Stokes created all the buzz during the player auctions when he became the costliest pick of the season as RPS bought him for a whopping INR 14.5 crore. He is indeed one of the best all-rounders in the world currently and got off to a decent start in the first game, scoring 21 runs with the bat and bagging a wicket with the ball.
Stoinis, on the other hand, was the only bright spot for KXIP in a rather dismal outing last year. He has been in a good international form too of late and would be expected to perform at that same high level for his franchise as well.