Kings XI Punjab’s hopes of making it to the top four ended on Friday after a crushing seven-wicket loss to Kolkata Knight Riders at Mohali.
Unable to defend 184, the Kings were flattened by a prolific batting performance from KKR with Punjab skipper lamenting their Powerplay performance in the post-match press conference.
Responding to what had gone wrong with their season, Ashwin identified, “One of the key areas we have lacked in this year has been our performance in the Powerplay but with the bat and the ball.”
It is definitely a keen observation as stats show that Punjab were a lot better last year and their numbers have seriously drooped this time around.
The off-spinner was also of the opinion that KL Rahul and Chris Gayle have not been able to string consistent performances this year and despite that, the openers and Mayank Agarwal at number three have contributed massively to the team total.
But despite scoring over 500 runs this season, Rahul has seen a massive dip in his strike-rate. The Karnataka batsman was striking at 158.41 in 2018 and has gone at 129.85 this season adding extra pressure on Gayle. With nothing to lose, Punjab could opt to push Nicholas Pooran to the opening slot.
While it has been a mixed bag for Punjab, their opponents on Sunday Chennai Super Kings have had a phenomenal season so far.
The Men in Yellow have continued in the same rich vein from last season to sit pretty atop the standings. Sunday will hand them an opportunity to cement their place in the top two, thereby having the luxury of getting two bites at the cherry to reach the final.
Mohali has historically been a venue that helps pacers but, surprisingly, this season the spinners haven’t done too badly.
Last season, the tweakers managed just 10 wickets at this venue, a number that has doubled this year.
Chennai have been reliant on their spinners, who have dished out some supreme performances this campaign. Be it the wily Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja or Mitchell Santner, they have all risen to the occasion when required.
Tahir has been at the top of his game this year enjoying his best returns in the IPL so far.
Tahir and Harbhajan will be key against KXIP’s openers and considering the side have a number of right handers, Tahir’s influence will be more vital.
Last time these two sides met at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai dished out a thorough bowling performance to eke out a 22-run victory and Ashwin will be looking to settle scores against his former employers.
Post-match on Friday, Ashwin said he liked the effort his players had displayed on the field despite that loss. That could be hinting at sticking with the same squad.
KXIP: KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Nicholas Pooran, Sam Curran, Mandeep Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Andrew Tye, Murugan Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh
MS Dhoni isn’t one to tinker greatly with his side and goes with the tried and tested. Shardul Thakur could replace Harbhajan once Dhoni has assessed the conditions.
CSK: Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Dwayne Bravo, Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh/Shardul Thakur, Imran Tahir