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While teams like Rajasthan Royals (RR), Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have managed to make their home grounds into fortresses, the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have not always enjoyed at Mohali. Shiamak Unwalla attempts to understand why.
Punjab side have been almost unbeatable in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014. They have won a staggering nine games out of 11 played at the time of writing. Their only two losses could perhaps be attributed more to complacency than anything else. They have won in virtually all conditions and match situations. They have chased over 200 runs twice, and while Glenn Maxwell has certainly been their best batsman — over 500 runs at an average of 48 and a strike rate of 195 are testimony to that — almost every player has risen to the occasion and helped the team pull off victories.
They return to their home ground of Mohali for the last leg of IPL 7. They were the first side to qualify for the playoffs, so their remaining matches are important only to see which side ends up as the No 1 ranked team. However, this is also an opportunity for them to mend their somewhat unsatisfactory record at home. In six matches played at Mohali in 2013, Punjab won three and lost three. In 2012, their record was even worse — just one win in five games at Mohali. This is very strange, given that in the inaugural edition of IPL, Punjab were nigh unstoppable at home with six back-to-back wins at home in seven games.
Of the current crop of players, David Miller has enjoyed the most success at Mohali. He has scored 257 runs at an average of 51.4 and a strike rate of 160.625. His tremendous 101 not out off 54 balls against the Royal Challengers Bangalore was perhaps the knock of the tournament last year, given the match situation and the opposition. He will be keen to get back to his happy hunting ground.
Mohali has traditionally been a pitch that has something in it for the fast bowlers. It is also a good pitch for batting, since the pace and carry help good batsmen to score freely. One feels that players who like the ball to come on to the bat — Virender Sehwag and Maxwell come to mind — will enjoy batting on this surface. More importantly, home boys, Manan Vohra and Sandeep Sharma will know the surface very well and should thrive in familiar conditions. Vohra has played two ferocious knocks in his first two games, and playing at home, ought to motivate him to get a big score. Sandeep, whose ability to swing the ball has impressed a number of experts, should enjoy bowling in conditions tailor-made for him.
Whether they win or not, they are through to the playoffs. However, playing at home in conditions that they ought to thrive in will only serve to inspire them. The fact that they take on Mumbai Indians — one of only two sides to defeat them this year — should add another dimension to their game. Punjab will be hoping to pay them back in kind at home, and establish Mohali as their stronghold once again.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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