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Big-hitting Kings XI look to make an impression under the tutelage of Hodge

IPL PREVIEWS: All you need to know about Kings XI Punjab ahead of the start of the new Indian Premier League season in April

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After months of boardroom plotting, weeks of speculation and a lavish auction that has become a phenomenon in itself, the wait is almost over.

The Indian Premier League gets under way in April, and it promises to be the most open in recent memory, such is the nature of the competition.

Here is all you need to know about Kings XI Punjab, from rising stars and the ones to watch to their title chances.

What’s their IPL pedigree?

So near, yet so far. Kings XI Punjab’s best season came in 2014, when they beat Chennai Super Kings to reach the final of the IPL. Despite a promising start, setting a target of 199 to beat, they lost by three wickets to Kolkata Knight Riders.

Recent campaigns have seen the Punjab fail to build on that, twice-finishing bottom of the league table in the last three editions.

The franchise is not without controversy; in June 2010, they were expelled from the IPL due to ownership issues but within a matter of weeks returned to the setup after intervention by the High Court.

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The Kings XI Punjab team mentor Virender Sehwag with owner Preity Zinta

Who’s in charge?

Former batsman Brad Hodge was named as head coach in December 2017, on a three-year deal. The Australian joined from fellow IPL team Gujarat Lions, where he led them to a playoff spot in his first season.

Virender Sehwag retains his place as mentor and director of cricket, in an otherwise changed backroom staff. Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who was recruited at the 2018 auction, was named as captain in February 2018.

A four-time ICC Test Team of the Year member, he will be looking to stamp his mark on the tournament having missed the 2017 edition due to injury.

Who are the big names?

As well as Ashwin, Kings XI Punjab can call on Chris Gayle to deliver. Considered by many commentators as the best T20 batsman, the Jamaican has a knack for delivering on the big stage.

At the 2013 IPL, Gayle scored 175 runs, hitting 17 sixes against Pune Warriors – a record that remained untouched until he went one better in the Bangladesh Premier League, four years later. K. L. Rahul, who burst into the scene in 2014, is a dependable wicketkeeper batsman, while AJ Tye is the most notable overseas seamer in the squad.

Allrounder Yuvraj Singh who joins the Punjab this season is another one-to-watch.

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Head coach Brad Hodge

Who is the rising star?

Barinder Sran, a left-arm medium-fast bowler who made his ODI debut two years ago for India against Australia. His journey into professional cricket came about as he won an under-19 competition, looking for talented recreational players.

Sran travelled to the ICC Academy in Dubai as his reward, and impressed Rahul Dravid before signing for the Rajasthan Royals.

Though his time at the club was uneventful, he joins Kings XI with a respectable economy rate of 7.7 and the potential to make a difference.

Where is home?

This year’s tournament will see Kings XI play home fixtures at two different grounds.

The first three games will be held at the PCA Stadium, where they have been based since 2008. For the final four matches, Kings XI will head to Holkar Stadium in Indore, over 1,100km away from their base.

The logistic changes are down to renovation work at Chandigarh International Airport in the Punjab region. The move to Holkar Stadium, opened in 1990, is set to attract a slightly bigger crowd, as the seating capacity is 4,000 higher than at the PCA.

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Ravichandran Ashwin captains the side

What chance do they have this year?

Few will give them a chance because of their track records. Unlike previous seasons, Kings XI have addressed balance issues in all departments.

The fierce batting of Gayle, Aaron Finch and David Miller and the leadership of Ashwin will only be a plus. Yet, questions may arise over the lack of an out-and-out fast bowler, and given Ashwin’s absence last year, there are doubts over whether he can produce a rhythm to his bowling.

Squad: R Ashwin (C), Axar Patel, Yuvraj Singh, Karun Nair, KL Rahul, Gayle, Miller, Aaron Finch, Marcus Stoinis, Mayank Agarwal, Ankit Rajpoot, Manoj Tiwary, Mohit Sharma, Mujeeb Zadran, Barinder Sran, Andrew Tye, Akshdeep Nath, Dwarshuis, Pardeep Sahu, Mayank Dagar and Manzoor Dar.

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