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The Preview by Dustin Silgardo
May 16, 2011
You come into the tournament with the weakest team on paper; shock everyone by winning three of your first four matches; give the IPL its first surprise hero of the tournament; have an inexplicable seven-day break that seems to derail your campaign; claw your way back into contention with three wins; and your reward is to play for survival against an unstoppable Chris Gayle on a miniature ground in Dharamsala. Who'd be Kings XI Punjab?
Gayle's 436 runs at an average of 87.20 and strike-rate of 201.85 have left even his illustrious team-mates in the shade. Punjab will have particularly bad memories of him; in the first encounter between the two sides, Gayle scored 107 off 49 balls and then took three wickets.
The good news for them is the seemingly-bionic Gayle has not had the most comfortable stay in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh since arriving on Sunday. Cold showers, ill-timed construction work and his fans on twitter kept him awake for most of his first night, and Punjab will be grateful for any further assistance in disconcerting the man who has smashed 32 sixes in seven games since arriving in India.
They would be ill-advised to fixate on Gayle, though, because unlike Delhi Daredevils, who are lost without their main man, Bangalore have plenty in reserve. Don't be surprised if Gayle goes for a duck and Bangalore win anyway.
Adam Gilchrist has been talking up his players after their big win against Delhi Daredevils at the same ground, prophesising a bright international career for Piyush Chawla, and likening Paul Valthaty's style of batting to his own. Is that his way of boosting their confidence before they take on a side whose seven-match winning streak has given new meaning to that elusive IPL quantity - "momentum"? Or is it simply placing them on a wobbly plank, or a precipice from which Gayle and Co. would be only happy to push them down.
Preity Zinta's pep talk hasn't had much of an impact on David Hussey's form. He's scored 64 runs from seven innings; Ryan Mclaren scored more in the three innings he had, and gives the side another seam-bowling option in conditions that offered some swing during the Punjab-Delhi match. If Punjab can look beyond Hussey's $1.4mn price tag, they may consider a swap.
Bangalore have qualified for the play-offs, but are still fighting to be in the top two. So there shouldn't be too much experimentation with their winning combination. With Tillakaratne Dilshan gone, 21-year-old South African Rilee Rossouw may get a call-up.
In the spotlight
The last time Piyush Chawla bowled to Chris Gayle, he was greeted with two thumping sixes, but got his man in the end, albeit after Gayle had already taken the game away from Punjab. This time, Chawla is coming off his best Twenty20 performance. Will Gilchrist risk throwing him the ball early to remove Gayle?
Zaheer Khan has not had the same kind of impact on the IPL that he had on the World Cup, or for that matter any series he plays for India. Praveen Kumar, though, got some prodigious swing at this ground, and it would be just like Zaheer to take on the responsibility of removing the core of a top-heavy Punjab line-up.
"Valthaty has an attacking style of play and in such a style results are always inconsistent. I know this because I'm speaking through personal experience."
Adam Gilchrist identifies with his opening partner
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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