IPL Preview: KXIP vs CSK - Can KXIP find their winning touch once again against CSK?

Sports media is an oft funny beast. You win a game and all of a sudden you are on top of the metaphorical ninth cloud and if you lose a game, you have slid into the abyss. Kings XI are experiencing the latter part of this. After a remarkable UAE leg, that included 5 back to back wins, they suffered a defeat in Mumbai against the only winless team of the season after the UAE leg. While the loss might not hold much significance in their search for glory this season, in Punjab’s case it might be a cause for concern. I am not going sports media on the beautiful Preity Zinta’s men in red. I am concerned about their next game.
Kings XI Punjab’s next game is against the Chennai Super Kings in Cuttack. Chennai Super Kings have been undefeated since their unprobable loss to Kings XI Punjab in their season opener. Maxwell’s blazing 95 off 43 and Miller’s 54 off 37 helped them chase 204 runs in less than 19 overs that day. With spinners Ashwin, Negi and Jadeja bearing the brunt of their hard hitting. The Cuttack pitch will likely change the game on its head. Cuttack is historically infamous for its slow pitches.
The likes of Ashwin, Jadeja and even Mohit Sharma and Dwayne Smith are likely to enjoy bowling in Cuttack’s run starved ground. Punjab’s team was not built for these kinds of surfaces. With a batting lineup featuring enough fire power to give Alfred Nobel a run for his money, the Cuttack pitch will need more batsmen to compose and construct their innings with ones and twos. Dhoni’s spinners are experts at restricting ones and twos. To add to their concerns, the batting has faced a slump in their last 2-3 games.
Punjab bowling have won them 2 games and played their part in the rest. Mitchell Johnson and Balaji have done well. Young guns Sandeep Sharma, Akshar Patel and Rishi Dhawan have more than exceeded expectations. But the lack of a genuine world class spinner will hurt them in Cuttack. No two ways about it. Sandeep Sharma and Balaji can trouble the CSK batsman with their variations and slower deliveries, but it’s the spinners who are likely to hold all the aces.
While one loss doesn’t mean an impending doom, two consecutive losses in a 14 game season, is worrying. Going to Cuttack to face the intimidating and in-form Chennai Super Kings is not all that different from worrying. Punjab already have 10 points in the bag. With 8 games to go, they would consider their chances of a top 2 finish good. But loose this and they will find themselves competing with Rajasthan for the top 2 slots as CSK look to steal the top spot. It is imperative for Punjab to get back to winning ways as soon as possible. Their loss to Mumbai was more ill-timed than an indication of impending doom. When you consider that the CSK match is the beginning of a 4 game week, there is added impetus on Punjab to pull a rabbit out of the hat or risk missing out on the top 2.

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