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Kings XI Punjab captaincy: How R Ashwin got the better of Yuvraj Singh

R Ashwin emerged strong contender to lead King XI Punajb the moment the franchise, mentored by ex-India opener Virender Sehwag and co-owned by Preity Zinta, bought him for Rs 7.6 crore in the January player auction

cricket Updated: Feb 26, 2018 23:12 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Kings XI Punjab,R Ashwin,Yuvraj Singh
R Ashwin was named the Kings XI Punjab captain by the Indian Premier League franchise’s mentor Virender Sehwag. (Twitter)

R Ashwin was named skipper of Kings XI Punjab on Monday, making him the odd man out in an Indian Premier League that usually picks batsmen to lead, leaving him with many points to prove.

The 31-year-old emerged strong contender to lead KXIP the moment the franchise, mentored by ex-India opener Virender Sehwag and co-owned by Preity Zinta, bought him for Rs 7.6 crore in the January player auction.

READ | Kings XI Punjab name R Ashwin captain for Indian Premier League 2018

Chennai Super Kings, back in IPL with MS Dhoni at the helm after a two-year ban, not actively bidding for the Chennai icon set tongues wagging in Bangalore that day. For a bowler who rose through his CSK performances, it was a snub.

Ashwin relishes challenges, be it constantly reinventing his bowling, even working on leg spin after being dumped from the India limited-overs sides in mid-2017. Virat Kohli’s backing of wrist spinners has brought him plenty of success and the off-spinner has declared he would fight to regain his spot in the ODIs.

Sehwag made the announcement on Ashwin in a Facebook live session on Monday with the spinner next to him.

Yuvraj dilemma

Sehwag said many fans felt Yuvraj Singh would be the right choice but he backed Ashwin. “I always thought a bowler should be captain. I was a huge fan of Wasim Akram, Kapil Dev, Waqar Younis, they were all great bowlers and went on to lead their teams successfully. I hope Ashwin will do the same and help us reach the qualifying stages and the final.”

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IPL teams have invariably looked up to batsmen as leaders. Zaheer Khan was skipper-cum-mentor of Delhi Daredevils in 2017, but that was an exception. In the 2018 edition, batsmen look set to lead all other teams with Kolkata Knight Riders, the only side yet to name its skipper, also likely to pick from among Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Karthik.

KXIP and DD are the only two franchises to play in all 10 editions without winning the trophy. They lost the 2014 final to KKR. “The best quality of Ashwin is he knows the format extremely well. He’s bowled in the powerplays, bowled in slog overs, etc. I feel it’s the right choice as a bowler knows best when to switch bowlers during the course of a game,” Sehwag said.

‘No additional pressure’

Ashwin said: “I am confident of bringing the best out of teammates… There is no additional pressure on me as such. I first led my state side in first-class cricket when I was 21. I have done it in the past and I am sure I will enjoy the challenge.”

In 111 IPL matches, Ashwin has 100 wickets at an economy rate of 6.55.

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Ashwin said Yuvraj will play a crucial role. “For me, it’s all about Yuvi pa going out there and entertaining the fans. It’s important we play an impressive brand of cricket… He’s led Kings XI Punjab before and will be the first person I go to if I need any sort of advice on the field.”

Ashwin has not had a great time in IPL in the last two years. He went to Rising Pune Supergiant in 2016, but in 14 matches, he took just 10 wickets, four in one game. The economy rate was high – 7.25. Last year, following his heavy workload playing Tests and nursing a sports hernia, Ashwin skipped IPL.

First Published: Feb 26, 2018 23:08 IST