When a new franchise or a fresh squad is about to play their first game of the IPL, the most interesting aspect to look out for is the team makeup, the playing XI that the captain and coach goes with. With the Gujarat Lions all ready to make their IPL debut, when they play the Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League 2016 Monday, Suresh Raina and Brad Hodge will have a few interesting team decisions to make.
While the Rising Pune Supergiants went about stocking their batting ranks with established talent in the IPL Player Draft, the Gujarat Lions decided to go the all-rounders way. They picked Ravindra Jadeja, James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo out of the five players they could select in the draft, immediately ending any worry of buying the right all-rounder in the cannot-predict-what-might-happen IPL Player Auction.
With Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Aaron Finch also in the side, the opening – the Lions will need to pick two of McCullum, Smith and Finch -- and all-rounders' slots are quite set for the team, with Raina, no doubt, locked and loaded in the No.3 role.
If they decide to go with two overseas openers, which is likely, and the two all-rounders – Faulkner and Bravo – Dale Steyn might have to warm the bench for this match, leaving the new ball duties to the likes of Dhawal Kulkarni and Praveen Kumar.
The Gujarat Lions will hope Dinesh Karthik finds some form with the bat, while it will be interesting to see how well and where youngster Ishan Kishan bats, provided he gets an opportunity against KXIP.
Kings XI did not make any major buys in the auction, deciding to largely stick with the team that disappointed so much last season. In David Miller they have a new captain, after George Bailey was let go, and the South African will want to quickly mould the team into a winning unit.
Glenn Maxwell will be naturally crucial to KXIP's fortunes, but the key will be the openers, with Murali Vijay and Manan Vohra, who can be a little hit and miss, expected to take one of the Indian slots, now that Virender Sehwag has retired.
Shaun Marsh is expected to feature in the playing XI for KXIP, while the fourth overseas player should be Mitchell Johnson, who will be key to the team's fortunes in the bowling department, even if they also have the option of the underrated Kyle Abbott.
Likely playing XI: Kings XI Punjab: Murali Vijay, Shaun Marsh, Wriddhiman Saha, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller (C), Gurkeerat Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Axar Patel, Mitchell Johnson, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma.
Gujarat Lions: Aaron Finch, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina (C), Ishan Kishan, Dinesh Karthik, James Faulkner, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Pravin Tambe.