There are plenty of similarities when it comes to Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils. For starters, neither has won the title in the ten editions so far. They have also failed to make it to the top four consistently, with Daredevils' seven finishes outside the top four being slightly bettered by Kings XI's eight - most for any team that has featured in all IPL editions. Ten different captains for Daredevils and eleven for KXIP adding to the similitude.
However, a new decade of the IPL raise hopes of a new dawn for both teams, who are led by skippers who know what it takes to win the IPL title. In Gautam Gambhir, Daredevils have a two-time IPL winning captain while R Ashwin, a potent weapon in Chennai Super Kings' past successes, would have learnt a trick or two from MS Dhoni. With two Australians - Ricky Ponting and Brad Hodge - as head coaches for both teams, there won't be any dearth of die-hard attitude infusion for the players.
As to the contrasts, the difference lies in the personnel involved in the make up of the teams. Daredevils have invested in youth by going in for seven players aged 23 or below (not including Kagiso Rabada), while KXIP have gone in with a blend of freshness and experience. As many as seven players in the KXIP outfit are above 30 while there are plenty of youngsters, including the 17-year-old Afghanistan sensation Mujeeb Zadran.
Another difference between the two sides is that Daredevils have identified a core group of players from their previous season. Seven players who featured in the Daredevils squad last year are still part of the team while the Punjab franchise has opted for a makeover of sorts. Apart from Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma, David Miller and Marcus Stoinis, Kings XI have gone in with a new bunch of players in an attempt to turn their fortunes around.
When: Sunday, April 8 at 4:00 PM IST
**Where: **Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali
What to expect: The Mohali wicket is typically hard and offers bounce, which should aid the stroke-makers. The last international game here was in December 2017 when Rohit Sharma made merry and registered his third 200-plus score. A similar batting-friendly wicket is likely for Kings XI's opening game. This being a late afternoon match, the players will be welcomed by warm conditions, with a high of 33 degree Celsius.
Kings XI Punjab: With Aaron Finch set to miss Kings XI's opening game owing to his marriage, there could be a toss up between Chris Gayle and David Miller should KXIP decide to go in with Mujeeb right from the start of the tournament. With the Karnataka trio of KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair all being opening options, Miller could get the nod ahead of Gayle.
Delhi Daredevils: Kagiso Rabada's absence comes as a big blow for Daredevils, who will also be without Glenn Maxwell for their first match as the Australian has been appointed to MC Finch's wedding. In this scenario, both Jason Roy and Colin Munro could feature in the starting XI for Sunday's game, along with Trent Boult and Chris Morris as the pace options.
Head to head:
Kings XI have lost six opening matches, as have Daredevils, including five in succession since 2013. Overall, Kings XI lead the head-to-head numbers, having won 11 to Daredevils' 10, and also have 80 per cent success rate against their North Indian counterparts in Mohali.
Gautam Gambhir vs Axar Patel:Gambhir has faced 42 deliveries from Axar without getting dismissed but has scored only 36 runs in the process - his SR of 85.71 being the lowest against a spinner (Min 25 balls).
Chris Gayle vs Chris Morris:Gayle has fallen to Morris thrice in 34 balls - the joint most Morris has dismissed any batsman alongside Gambhir and Suresh Raina.
Gambhir needs one more fifty to equal David Warner's IPL record of most 50+ scores in the IPL (36). Gambhir's 4132 runs is the most by anyone in IPL without a hundred.
R Ashwin will be leading an IPL side for the first time in his 112th match, which will also be his first T20 in a leadership role. The previous most by a player before leading an IPL side was Ajinkya Rahane's 97 matches.
What they said:
I think R Ashwin will bring a difference to Kings XI, his leadership skills are outstanding. His engagement with a lot of players has been outstanding since he arrived. We gave options for people to choose when they want to train and he was the first one (to arrive for the optional net sessions). He wanted to make a difference, he wants to make a statement for Kings XI. We want everyone to be part of this organisation post this year, for two-three seasons down the track, and I think Ashwin is going to bring that leadership, that stability and keep everyone encouraged on the field: Brad Hodge, Kings XI Punjab head coach.
In the IPL you have to be prepared for that. Rabada obviously was our first choice and definitely we'll miss him. But we always had the back-up. We already have Chris [Morris] and [Trent] Boult. With [Liam] Plunkett coming in - he's also an all-rounder - so that's going to give us the balance. We have focused on the balance of the team and the back-ups. In a long tournament, to win a championship you'll have to play around 17 matches. There will be some injuries, there will be a key player missing but still you can get the desired result: Pravin Amre, assistant coach of Delhi Daredevils.
Kings XI Punjab: Mayank Agarwal, Mujeeb Zadran, Manzoor Dar, David Miller, Marcus Stoinis, R Ashwin (c), Pardeep Sahu, Manoj Tiwary, Yuvraj Singh, Karun Nair, KL Rahul, Andrew Tye, Akshdeep Nath, Chris Gayle, Aaron Finch, Mohit Sharma, Barinder Sran, Ankit Rajpoot, Mayank Dagar, Ben Dwarshuis, Axar Patel
Delhi Daredevils: Abhishek Sharma, Avesh Khan, Trent Boult, Daniel Christian, Gautam Gambhir (c), Sayan Ghosh, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Shreyas Iyer, Sandeep Lamichhane, Manjot Kalra, Glenn Maxwell, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Shami, Chris Morris, Colin Munro, Shahbaz Nadeem, Naman Ojha, Rishabh Pant, Harshal Patel, Liam Plunkett, Jason Roy, Vijay Shankar, Prithvi Shaw, Rahul Tewatia, Jayant Yadav