Bangar has brought the best out of youngsters - Bailey
Sitting pretty on the top of the points table, Kings XI Punjab look set to make it to the qualifiers after a dominant run in the tournament and with five matches in hand. While their overseas batsmen and domestic bowlers have been instrumental in their seven wins, their captain George Bailey believes the coach Sanjay Bangar had made a lot of difference with his knowledge of domestic players.
"Sanjay and Sri's [R Sridhar, fielding coach] knowledge of Indian players has been exceptional," Bailey told ESPNcricinfo. "They have focused a lot on the younger players who have performed, particularly the guys who haven't played much [earlier]. A lot of Indians wouldn't have known about them but they have obviously seen something and their knowledge has been really important, one in selecting them and two, bringing the best out of them."
Apart from grooming the uncapped seamer Sandeep Sharma, Kings XI surprised Royal Challengers Bangalore on their home ground with offspinner Shivam Sharma, who struck twice and conceded only 26 runs in four overs.
The season's records for the leading run-scorer, the top three individual scores, the highest strike-rate (among batsmen who have faced at least 50 balls) and most sixes all belong to Glenn Maxwell, who has scored four fifties, the smallest score among them being 89. David Miller is not far away with a strike-rate of 162.29 and 297 runs from nine innings. Sandeep has chipped in with 13 wickets, removing batsmen like Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli twice each, while Akshar Patel, another uncapped bowler, has conceded only 6.26 per over.
"We've got a well-balanced team," Bailey said. "We have three batsmen in terrific form and we have shown consistent bowling and fielding performances and we've got a good bunch of guys in the coaching team."
When asked if he expected to be on top of the table throughout, Bailey said: "As a team nobody has any expectations of where you want to be. We just want to be consistent in the way we've played. T20 is obviously a game that involves a bit of luck and if you start playing well then the confidence and momentum are really important. We've won a few games and we've lost two too. Sometimes that's just going to happen, you have got to be convinced with the way you play."
Kings XI won their first five matches, all in the UAE. Their first defeat was in India, against Mumbai Indians, when Harbhajan Singh dismissed Maxwell and Bailey. The captain said there was hardly any difference between the two host countries when it came to pitches.
"There's not a huge difference in the pitches in the UAE, where they were a little slower. I think we're starting to see the wickets here turn a little bit more, so spin is probably having slightly more influence compared to the UAE. Grounds and conditions change quite a bit but there was not a huge difference."
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo