MOHALI : As Tottenham lost to West Ham by a solitary goal on Saturday, Chelsea players and staff would have let out a huge sigh of relief. The Hammers did what the Blues did last year, crushing Spurs’ hopes of winning the EPL.
On Sunday, something similar can happen. Glenn Maxwell’s Kings XI Punjab face Suresh Raina’s Gujarat Lions at IS Bindra Stadium. The former are in contention for the playoffs and Gujarat are not. Can the visitors be party-poopers?
Riding on back-to-back wins, the home team are under more pressure to progress. Punjab are fifth on the table with 10 points from 10 games. Even the smallest of mistakes could cost them dear. After a 10-wicket win over Delhi Daredevils, they beat Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday.
Axar Patel stole the show with a 17-ball 38 and got three wickets as they defended a modest 138. While the bowlers have improved, depth in batting is something they have to address.
Hashim Amla, with 316 runs, is their top-scorer. The likes of Wriddhiman Saha, Shaun Marsh and Manan Vohra should chip in more often if they are to challenge for the title.
On top of that, Maxwell’s form is a concern. Quick highlights from 2014, where he hit fours and sixes for fun, will tell you what the Aussie is capable of. However, the 28-year-old is a mere shadow of himself this year, managing under 200 runs in 10 games. An unbeaten 44 against Pune is his best so far.
Lions, coming off two losses, have had a disappointing season. The second-last team’s bowlers have failed to live up to expectations.
That they were unable to defend 208 against Delhi on Thursday is further proof that the bowling department needs improvement. Losing opener Brendon McCullum to injury can be a huge blow. But Raina and Dinesh Karthik, along with Aaron Finch and Dwayne Smith, are capable of heavy damage.
The players are not taking it lightly, according to assistant coach Mohammad Kaif. “They are all professional athletes. They are getting paid to do their job. And once you get out there, you want to win despite the situation.
“Our position on the table doesn’t matter. Next year, there is going to be auctions again, and all these players want to perform well and make an impression so as to get picked again. We had a couple of close matches. We were unfortunate. So now the plan is to finish strong,” he said.