South Africa’s explosive batsman David Miller, who will lead the Kings XI Punjab in this edition of the IPL, feels that captaincy has not brought any added pressure on him ahead of the latest edition of the Indian Premier League.
“Responsibility changes a bit as captain, but I am really looking forward to it,” Miller said.
“No pressure, to be honest. I see it as an opportunity. We have changed the squad a little bit this year, couple of new additions, but most of the squad stays the same. I really believe we can win the competition this year. The fact that we haven’t won it, doesn’t add any more pressure. It’s a great opportunity for the guys to step up,” he added.
The 26-year-old said he is looking forward to the captaincy challenge.
“There are guys in the team who play a lot of international cricket. I am looking forward to rubbing shoulders with them. This is my first time as captain, but I am really looking forward to the challenge and what lies ahead,” Miller said at a news conference here in the presence of KXIP mentor Virender Sehwag, head coach Sanjay Bangar and team’s Chief Executive Officer Fraser Castellino.
KXIP will take on the new IPL franchise Gujarat Lions in their opening match at their home ground in Mohali on April 11.
“I am looking forward to the first game, we will take it from there. See how it goes. There are going to be challenges, ups and downs,” said Miller.
KXIP batting department comprises the likes of Shaun Marsh, Manan Vohra, Murali Vijay, Marcus Stoinis, Armaan Jaffer, besides Miller while the KXIP bowling consists of Sandeep Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Anureet Singh, Kyle Abbott, Mohit Sharma, K C Cariappa and Pradeep Sahu.
Asked what according to him are the core strengths of the team that set it apart from others, Miller said, “That is a difficult question because lot of teams are really strong, but I believe we are a well-balanced side. We have some really world class bowlers, some really good youngsters, our batting line up is looking really strong.
“We have to make sure that whatever we do we do it as best as we can. We are playing to win, we don’t want to disappoint, we want to play best we can, as long as we do that and we have our plans in place, we can come off as winners,” he said.
On the playing conditions, Miller said, “As foreign players, we have been fortunate to play in the Indian conditions. I feel fairly confident in Indian conditions, in terms of what works and what doesn’t work. IPL is a huge platform for everyone.”
KXIP’s best effort was reaching the finals of the earlier KXIP’s best effort was reaching the finals of the earlier edition, and head coach Sanjay Bangar said he was confident of his new-look team doing well this season as well.
“We definitely learnt a lot from last season. We have made certain changes. We were found wanting in our spin department and we have beefed up that. We have got some good exciting spinners. KC Cariappa, Pradeep Sahu...they are very capable and young spinners. There lies the strength of KXIP. We want to encourage the youngsters and give them a platform. We aspire to do that this season as well,” Bangar said.
“We also have some young talents. Marcus Stoinis, who is an emerging all-rounder in Australian cricket, Farhaan Behardien is a capable middle-order batsman who has done well in Indian conditions and Kyle Abbott, who actually has the ability to bowl at all stages of the game. Because of that I feel the strength of the team has improved and we have lot of players coming in fresh from the World Cup experience, so I am pretty sure it augurs well for the preparations,” he added.
Bangar feels that the recently held World T20 in India “will help our boys adjust to conditions far far better”.
“We also started our preparations quite well and we are playing a few practice games and I am sure we will get our combinations right.”
With Sehwag no longer available as a player, Bangar said, “though a player like Viru cannot be replaced, we have plenty of options. Manan Vohra is an exciting talent, Murali Vijay and Shaun Marsh are there”.
Whether it would be an advantage for KXIP to be playing their first match against a new team, Bangar said, “No, I don’t think so. IPL is such a format that every team gathers 8-10 days before the tournament and everyone almost prepares the same way. I don’t think any particular team enjoys any big advantage over any other team. All teams are evenly balanced and IPL is a competitive format.”
Bangar believes that IPL is a platform where talent meets opportunity.
“The guy sitting next to me (Bangar said pointing to Miller), he came in here as a 20-year-old boy, he sat on the bench for around a season and today he is captain of the team. Lot of players like Axar Patel, Sandeep Sharma used this platform and many have gone on to wear the India colours, so that is something that excites me, wherein you facilitate a road for young talents to achieve their dreams.”
KXIP CEO Fraser Castellino said the team has retained most of its last year’s sponsors, including TATA motors, which continues for the third year. He also informed that a lot of marketing activities have been planned before and during the IPL matches involving KXIP, besides social media campaigns and sponsor activities at the PCA stadium.