Mohali, April 5: Boasting an array of dazzling stroke makers and heady mix of experience and exuberance, Kings XI Punjab, having finished runners-up in the last edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), are raring to go one step better this time.
Having faltered to deceive in earlier editions of the cash-rich cricket league, Kings XI emerged as the team to beat in the last edition, riding on the sustained explosive performances from Australian dasher Glenn Maxwell and South African David Miller.
Beside the presence of seasoned campaigners like aggressive bat Virender Sehwag and pacer Mitchell Johnson, the exciting Indian contingent of Wriddhiman Saha, Axar Patel and Manan Vohra made the Kings a force to reckon with. However, Maxwell, who played a key role in Australia's world cup triumph, will continue to be the key.
Armed with a repertoire of unconventional shots, Maxwell is known for taking the attack to the opposition irrespective of the situation. In addition he can bowl right-arm off-spin, bat anywhere in the middle-order and like most Australians is a fantastic fielder.
Led by the assuring captain-coach duo of George Bailey and Sanjay Bangar, the Kings have enough firepower in both the batting and bowling departments that make them one of the contenders for the title.
With Sehwag and Vijay - the only Indians to have cracked two IPL tons each - at the top and the likes of Saha, Bailey, Miller, Maxwell and Shaun Marsh in the ranks, the Kings arguably have the best batting line-up.
Spearheading the bowling attack, lanky Australian pacer Johnson will have able support in Sandeep Sharma and Shardul Thakur, who with 48 wickets has emerged as the joint highest wicket taker in this year's Ranji trophy.
Known for his discipline spin bowling, Kings would look up to left armer Axar Patel, who in the last season played a pivotal role snatching 17 wickets in as many matches.
In Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Manan Vohra and Rishi Dhawan, the Kings have three promising youngsters while they can always rely on Sri lankan Thisara Perera, who emerged as a prolific all-rounder in limited-overs cricket lately. His aggressive batting style and ability to pick crucial wickets make him a crucial player.
Indian Players: Virender Sehwag, Wriddhiman Saha (wicket keeper), Axar Patel, Murali Vijay, Anureet Singh, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Karanveer Singh, Manan Vohra, Parvinder Awana, Rishi Dhawan, Sandeep Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Shivam Sharma, Nikhil Naik, Yogesh Golwalkar
Foreign signings: George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Beuran Hendricks, David Miller, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Thisara Perera.
Team Schedule-Home matches: vs Rajasthan Royals (April 10), vs Delhi Daredevils (April 15), vs Kolkata Knight Riders (April 18), vs Sunrisers Hyderabad (April 27), vs Mumbai Indians (May 3), vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (May 13), vs Chennai Super Kings (May 16)
Away matches: vs Mumbai Indians (April 12), vs Rajasthan Royals (April 21), vs Chennai Super Kings (April 25), vs Delhi Daredevils (May 1), vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (May 6), vs Kolkata Knight Riders (May9), vs Sunrisers Hyderabad (May 11)
IPL Record: 2008-semi-finalist; 2009-5th; 2010-last; 2011-5th; 2012-6th; 2013-6th; 2014-runners up.