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Kings XI hopes to stay afloat

Rakesh Rao
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Deccan Chargers looking to finish the tournament in style

Key man:A significant contribution from J.P. Duminy can help Deccan Chargers end on a winning note.— Photo: PTI
Key man:A significant contribution from J.P. Duminy can help Deccan Chargers end on a winning note.— Photo: PTI

Adam Gilchrist has an added reason to be motivated when he leads Kings XI Punjab against Deccan Chargers, his former franchise on Saturday.

Kings XI is looking for its fifth straight victory to keep alive its mathematical chances of making the play-offs. By cheer coincidence, it was at this venue last year that Gilchrist led Chargers to its fifth successive win for a place in the semifinals.

However, much has happened since then. Being a thorough professional, Gilchrist has made both his franchises proud in varying degrees. But it was at Hyderabad, when Chargers hosted Kings last month, that Gilchrist mentioned how “one person within the franchise” (Chargers) had made certain comments that left him “disappointed” even as the Aussie maintained that he had “three wonderful years with Chargers.

Gilchrist played his part in Kings XI's eight-wicket victory with a 61 and then said, “This (win) is on that one person (member) who knows what they (comments) are. We are going to play them again in the tournament. Every dog has its day but it was our day today.”

It is this background that brings an added dimension to Saturday's clash. If an out-of-reckoning Chargers are here with two successive victories for the first time this season, Kings XI has won its last four, including two here this week.

After Thursday night's victory for Kolkata Knight Riders, Kings XI's chances of making the play-off are rather slim. Unless Kings XI wins by a huge margin against Chargers and KKR heavily loses its final game against Mumbai Indians, Gilchrist's men's campaign will end here.

But Gilchrist is quite clear about his priorities and what needs to be done first. “Winning is our first priority. The net run-rate will have any meaning for us only if we win.”

For the past two days, after crushing Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kings XI has had a relaxing time. As Gilchrist indicated, an audience with the Dalai Lama on Thursday also helped the team stay grounded.

Chargers, under Cameron White, is looking to finish on a high note despite being knocked out of the race for a place in the play-offs. White, who takes over the captaincy from an unavailable Kumar Sangakkara even after missing out on the last four matches spread over 18 days, was looking to finish the campaign by winning three in a row.

“Our franchise would love to see us finish with three wins,” pointed out White. Kings XI clearly holds a psychological edge over Chargers not only due to its crushing win at Hyderabad but also having won here twice last week. With Gilchrist coming good with an unforgettable century on Tuesday, the Kings XI top-order looks in great form. Paul Valthaty, Shaun Marsh, Dinesh Karthik and David Hussey have all played their parts well recently.

Among the bowlers, Piyush Chawla has gained the most — both in terms of wickets and self-belief — in the week thanks to his back-to-back four-wicket hauls here.

In contrast, Chargers' attack looks better than its batting line-up. The presence of Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, along with surprise performer Jean-Paul Duminy upfront with the new ball, can test Kings XI's in-form batsmen.

Eventually, both teams may not make it to the play-offs but the winner on Saturday will have the satisfaction of finishing the campaign with multiple victories.

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