Virender Sehwag backs Ravichandran Ashwin to lead Kings XI Punjab to IPL title
Since the Kings XI Punjab team started training at its home ground in Mohali ahead of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018, mentor Virender Sehwag has looked the most excited and involved with the new mix of players led by off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Former Indian cricketer Sehwag is optimistic about his team’s prospects and thinks that Ashwin, who was with Chennai Super Kings (CSK) for 10 seasons, can take Kings XI Punjab to title triumph.
He said, “Having played with Ashwin, I know that he is a very smart cricketer and has a very positive mindset. He is the right choice to lead Kings XI Punjab. Moreover, I am big fan of bowlers Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, who have led their teams to so many titles. Hopefully, Ashwin can do that for us. During the time I played for India, captaincy was not really given to any of the bowlers. After Virat, I think some bowler will take on Indian captaincy. He is ideal to share his experience with other bowlers rather than a batsman doing it.”
Kings XI Punjab finished as runners up in 2014 and ended their campaign as semi-finalists in 2008, their two best performances till date. Australia’s former cricketer Brad Hodge is the coach while former Indian pacer Venkatesh Prasad is the bowling coach of the Punjab team.
Sehwag, who also played for the Punjab franchise for three seasons, feels the upcoming IPL season can be a good one for the team. “This year we have a very good team which has the right combination of Indian and foreign cricketers. Under Brad’s coaching the team can do well as he has vast experience of T20 cricket along with Chris Gayle who has tasted tremendous success in T20 leagues all over the world,” said Sehwag in a confident tone. “In 2014 we reached the IPL final but couldn’t win the title, but this year we can change that. We will entertain the fans. We have players who can hit sixes and fours and don’t believe in singles,” added a smiling Sehwag.
Speaking on his role as a mentor, Sehwag said, “Everyone has been treated in the same manner whether it is Chris Gayle or a youngster like Mayank Dagar. If I am giving Gayle a chance to have optional practice then Dagar will have that right. Youngsters need to spend more time on the field and get to soak in everything and that is when the role of support staff comes to play. We have good all-rounders like Yuvraj Singh, Manoj Tiwary, Chris Gayle, who can really lift the team on a given day with their talent.” Kings XI Punjab take on Delhi Daredevils in their opening match in Mohali on April 8. After this, Mohali will host two more Kings XI Punjab matches. They will take on Chennai Super Kings on April 15 and clash with Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 19.
“It is hard to win all 14 matches in the season. Winning eight matches will propel Kings XI Punjab to enter the play offs. During this time, there are going to be ups and downs and the support staff has to make sure that players are in good space and fresh to perform at every opportunity. It will be crucial how they perform on the field and remain fit,” felt coach Hodge.
KXIP squad: Akshar Patel, KL Rahul, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Andrew Tye, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Karun Nair, Mujeeb Zadran, Ankit Singh Rajpoot, David Miller, Mohit Sharma, Barinder Singh Sran, Yuvraj Singh, Chris Gayle, Ben Dwarshuis, Akshdeep Nath, Manoj Tiwary, Mayank Agarwal, Manzoor Dar, Pardeep Sahu and Mayank Dagar.