Kings XI Punjab, the last of the nine teams to take the field in the 2013 Indian Premier League, will clash with Pune Warriors India in Pune on Sunday (April 7). Punjab haven't won their opening match in any of the five previous editions of the IPL, but against a Pune side that failed to chase a meagre 126 against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday, they will fancy their chances of breaking that jinx.
Partly due to their relatively late start, but more because of the absence of big name Indian players, Punjab have been somewhat under the radar - as much as that is possible in a tournament like the IPL – so far. What they have going for them though, is a core of reliable foreign players in Azhar Mahmood, Ryan Harris, David Hussey and Adam Gilchrist, the captain, who has returned for what is likely to be a final IPL season. Shaun Marsh, one of Punjab's main batsmen, is yet to join the team after sustaining a knee injury in February, and when he comes back, Punjab's overseas contingent should look powerful enough.
Pune have an even more enviable line-up to pick from, but after their first match debacle, that might not offer them great comfort. Pune had some fine players in their squads in 2011 and 2012 too, but finished in the bottom two on both occasions. There is hope this year, in the emergence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who makes for a good new-ball pairing with Ashok Dinda, with Ishwar Pandey, the highest wicket-taker of the last Ranji Trophy season, in the reserves. That frees up slots for the overseas players, particularly batsmen who can bowl spin such as Marlon Samuels and Steven Smith.