Amidst the galaxy of stars --- Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Steve Smith and Kevin Pietersen, it was the Indian players, more importantly the likes of Sandeep Sharma and Manan Vohra, who shone as Kings XI Punjab sealed their first win of the season against Rising Pune Supergiants on Sunday.
Add to it Mohit Sharma’s contribution, who earned fame through the IPL, snaring three crucial wickets, and KXIP’s plan worked without a hitch. The idea of having a core of domestic players was perfected by Rajasthan Royals and now KXIP have been trying to replicate that over the past few seasons.
KXIP will have to be on top of their game if they are to beat two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders on Tuesday. KKR come into the match with skipper Gautam Gambhir leading from the front after notching up an unbeaten 90 against Sunrisers. With Andre Russell, Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa in the line-up, KKR have the ability to clear the boundaries easily.
The KXIP middle order has been misfiring, so the pressure will be on the domestic players to fire.
In 2014, when KXIP retained Vohra, it spoke volumes on the faith the management had in the Punjab opener’s talent.
He finished the season with 324 runs from seven matches with a highest of 67. In the current season he averages 40 so far.
On Sunday, as KXIP chased a win, Vohra and Murali Vijay added 97 for the first wicket and set the ideal platform for victory by notching up half-centuries. In fact, the foundation for the win, KXIP’s first in three matches, was laid by Sandeep and Mohit.
While Sandeep snared two wickets with a nagging line, which included the scalp of Ajinkya Rahane with a ball that came in after pitching, he later removed Thisara Perera. Coming off a long injury layoff, Mohit snared Faf du Plessis, Smith and MS Dhoni at a time when Pune were looking for quick runs.
Skipper Miller was ecstatic with the performance. “He (Vohra) is a serious player. He has a lot of talent and has a huge future ahead of him. He’s starting to construct his innings really well. It was good for him to have a knock like that. Mohit also bowled exceptionally well. Guys were really strong and they stuck to their plan,” Miller said after the six-wicket win over Pune.