When Kings XI Punjab prepare to face Mumbai Indians, the one key area they will focus on will be the home team’s pace attack led by Lasith Malinga. But after the hosts tripped up Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday, the one man who will be on their radar will be Dhawal Kulkarni.
The Mumbai Ranji pacemen rocked the RCB batting to return figures of 3/19, grabbing attention after warming the bench for quite some time. The tall paceman with a compact action has been in the fringes of the India team — he recently made it to the India 'A' side on the back of a brilliant performance in the Ranji Trophy triumph.
With a lively Wankhede pitch expected for the game on Monday, Kulkarni, along with Malinga, will hold the key for the Mumbai Indians.
Kulkarni's experience in the T20 league has been limited with few opportunities coming his way. On Saturday, he provided a glimpse of what he can achieve if given a pitch that can complement his strengths, having worked on adding extra pace to his deliveries as well as developing variations. Mumbai Ranji coach Sulakshan Kulkarni believes Kulkarni can only improve with more such opportunities. "The three big wickets of AB de Villiers, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Virat
Kohli were crucial, but the difference between most bowlers on the domestic circuit and Dhawal is his ability to deceive batsmen with his out swing. In his flow, even international level players are bound to be lost for answers to his bowling."
With the foreign batsmen in the Kings XI ranks having struggled, the team are depending heavily on their domestic players. However, the experience gained by
Kulkarni in domestic tournaments and his ability to read pitch conditions makes him a potent force.
"He has managed to add more pace this season. In a T20 game, such things matter as the batsman is always expecting the ball to come onto the bat nicely.”