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Kings XI Punjab face their biggest test in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 as they take on a confident Chennai Super Kings. Though Punjab topped the league stage and trounced Chennai in both their encounters this season, the MS Dhoni-led side has more experience in knockout games and are all the more dangerous in the playoffs. Dominating the league is one thing, but to be competing in the playoffs needs something more. Thus, Glenn Maxwell, the man who dominated Chennai in the two previous games, would be crucial coming into this game.
Following a brilliant start to the IPL 2014, Maxwell’s form has tapered off a bit. Leg-spinners have troubled him in the latter half and he hasn’t been as prolific as he was earlier. Punjab do need his brilliance to trounce Chennai and a lot would also depend on his clash with the off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Maxwell has been very successful against Ashwin and has attacked him well this IPL. With the ball normally coming into him, Maxwell goes for the free swing and whacks it towards the leg-side.
Maxwell’s record against Ashwin in IPL 7 so far: 64 runs in 24 balls at a strike-rate of 266.67 and hasn’t been dismissed by Ashwin even once. It was no surprise that after the defeating Mumbai Indians in the Eliminator, Ashwin deliberately broached the topic of Maxwell and said to the television anchor that he is going to bowl mostly over the wicket. There is no love lost between the two. Earlier, in an interview to AltCricket, Maxwell had said that he can read Ashwin like a book.
Maxwell prefers the ball turning it as it allows him to go over the leg-side with the spin. When it turns away, he gets into a bit of a tangle and even when he does swing it, he doesn’t get all of it. But, perhaps, Ashwin’s bowling is ideal for him. The off-spinner doesn’t hesitate from firing them in and adding the pace to the ball. Maxwell can use that well to his advantage to smash it around. With the small boundaries at the Wankhede Stadium, he will target sending them into the stands.
However, Ashwin has his own battle to win. During the recent ICC World T20 encounter against India and Australia, Ashwin had dismissed Maxwell when he tried to reverse sweep. Perhaps if Ashwin does make it a bit slower, it may work. Even the carom balls are being smashed by the fearless Maxwell. Ashwin does have to try and do something to make an impact and get Maxwell early.
One way Chennai can limit the damage is by playing Samuel Badree. The leggie has not had a very good IPL, but to dismiss this man, they might as well get him back. In two games this season, Maxwell has smashed 185 runs against Chennai. They do realise how important he is to this contest and to bring one bowler with a view to limit the damage may be warranted when it is someone like Maxwell.
Punjab would hope Maxwell comes back into form for this game. In the big game against Kolkata Knight Riders, they faltered and this time they do not have second chances. Dhoni’s men have shown they are the true kings of the knockouts. Time for Punjab to show their true mettle.
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