Indian Premier League 2009 April 10, 2009

Moody expects tough IPL contest

Cricinfo staff

Kings XI Punjab coach Tom Moody believes the second edition of the IPL will be more competitive than the first while the team's captain, Yuvraj Singh, was hopeful his side could go better than the semi-finals this year.

"There is no way anybody can pick one team above the other. All the sides were evenly matched," Moody said in South Africa. "All the teams in the competition are very strong. I think it would be foolish of anyone to try and predict who the favourites or second favourites will be."

Moody picked the Delhi Daredevils, who they will play on April 19 in Cape Town, as one of Punjab's biggest threats. The teams meet in Cape Town on April 19. "Delhi Daredevils is always a tough game for us. We've got them first up and they boast a good international list but also have some very good Indian stars."

Yuvraj was confident of his core base but expressed concern over the fast-bowling stakes. With new signing Jerome Taylor injured in a car accident recently and Sreesanth recovering from a back injury, Punjab have effectively lost five of their frontline players. The Australians Shaun Marsh, James Hopes and Brett Lee will be away on national duty but Punjab are hopeful they will be free for the second half of the IPL.

"We have a good team this season. We have a good batting line-up with the likes of [Kumar] Sangakkara, [Mahela] Jayawardene and Shaun Marsh. Besides, we also have Ravi Bopara this year who can also bowl a bit," said Yuvraj."The only worry is the pace department. A couple of pacers are coming back from injuries while Sreesanth has been ruled out. But I am confident that the rest of the squad will rise to the occasion."

Yuvraj believed the local Indian community would come out in strong support. "The Indian fan base in South Africa is huge and we are expecting them to turn up and support their city teams," said Yuvraj. "I am sure that the Punjabi community settled in South Africa will support us. Similarly, those originally from Mumbai would certainly come for Mumbai's matches. Some Indian fans will also fly down to South Africa."

While the franchise is still awaiting some key players to arrive, Moody said Punjab had been well received in Port Elizabeth. "It's of great excitement for us to have the opportunity to practice at terrific facilities here in Port Elizabeth. The ground at St George's is certainly world class, the pitches have been world class and we've enjoyed the experience to date," he said. "That's particularly so for our Indian players who need to get used to conditions here in South Africa."

Irfan Pathan, whose role as an allrounder will be more significant in the absence of Lee and Hopes, was pleased with the progress shown by the first-timers to South Africa. "There was a big difference between the first and second net practice we had here," he said. "The batsmen became more comfortable with the local fast bowlers. I'm pretty happy with their progress.

"This is my third trip here. So whatever experience I have I've already started passing on to a few Indian guys and I've seen the difference already."