CHENNAI: Kings XI Punjab are all set to appoint India Test opener Murali Vijay as their captain following dismal outings with David Miller at the helm. Though teams opting for new captains mid-way through the season isn’t a first in the Indian Premier League, this move seems to have been made in order to free Miller from these responsibilities and let him concentrate more on the batting front. Interestingly Vijay is not part of India’s limited-overs sides and last wore the Blue Shirt last year in Zimbabwe. He has played only 9 T20 Internationals to go with 37 One-day caps.
Punjab have played six matches so far, and are languishing at the bottom of the table with just one win and five losses.
After the franchise released last season’s captain George Bailey ahead of the auction in February, one expected them to go for a player with experience of leading a side. With no big-name entrants, they took the gamble of going ahead with Miller, who hasn’t led any sides before.
The South African has struggled as captain, and is also in the middle of a poor run of form, having scored only 76 runs so far in six matches.
With the team facing the risk of not making it to the knockout stages for the second time in successive seasons, the team-management, led by coach Sanjay Bangar, seems to have taken the decision after consulting with franchise owners.
“It was purely a management decision because we wanted Miller to play with freedom. He is our best batsman and as everyone can see it, he is struggling to cope with the added responsibility. With the play-off place still up for grabs, we thought that it was the right time to change captains. Maybe that can infuse new enthusiasm and energy into the side,” sources in the franchise told Express on Friday.
When it comes to experience of leading the side, Vijay too is on similar lines, as he hasn’t led teams even in the domestic circuit. But the franchise seems to believe that the right-hander’s knowledge of Indian players, conditions and game awareness will be immensely helpful.
“He is a Test regular and has seen great success. Moreover, as a senior player, he has always given valuable inputs. We believe that he will come in handy in this crucial time,” the source added.
The move hasn’t come as a surprise entirely because ahead of the season, the team-management was contemplating giving the responsibility to Vijay, but they decided against it because they were unsure whether the Indian — seen a Test specialist — will get to play all the matches.
The IPL in the past has seen captains (mostly foreign) drop themselves to accommodate a different player. VVS Laxman was the first to do so in 2008 with Deccan Chargers when Adam Gilchrist replaced him. It also happened with Angelo Mathews (Sahara Pune Warriors), Kumar Sangakkara (Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Ricky Ponting (Mumbai Indians). The other occasion where an Indian captain was replaced midway through the season was when West Indies’ Darren Sammy took over the reins from Shikhar Dhawan for SRH back in 2013.