Kings XI Punjab started IPL edition. With the heroics of Australian opener Shaun Marsh it reached the semifinal registering 10 wins. 2009 saw them performing good with 7 wins without reaching semifinals, but 2010 saw them breaking into pieces. There was threat of them not parcipating at all. In 2011, Valthaty has brought glory to the team, which was considered weak. Can he be the Shaun Marsh of 2008 and take Kings XI to the respectable distance of knockouts!!
In 2008, Kings XI finished 2nd in the group with 10 wins and 4 losses. Their start of the edition was scary as they lost their first two matches to Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, ultimately these two teams qualified for the final of 2008 too. Then started their victory run which saw them winning all other matches except two more matches against Chennai Super Kings and one against Kolkata Knight Riders.
In the edition filled with superstars from world arena, new comer Shaun Marsh took just 11 innings to claim Orange Cap with 616 runs. Gambhir of Delhi Daredevils finished distant 2nd with 534 runs that required 3 more innings than what Marsh played. Absence of Marsh was a vital reason for their loss in semifinal. Later in 2009 and 2010 there were no Marsh-like performances and Kings XI kept sinking to a level where in 2011 they were considered the underdogs.
2011 edition did not start differently for them. Newcomers Pune Warriors India, captained by the ex-captain of Kings XI, Yuvraj Singh humiliated them at home. Everyone started pondering that Kings XI may be the last among all teams. The next match against their marauders Chennai Super Kings could have been the nail in the coffin and their existence was at stake.
Just then emerged Valthaty from nowhere. Valthaty with no First Class experience and returning to Cricket World after a gap of almost 6 threatening years to his life was not a figure that could have been trusted with the revival of any team. First the guy has to make his place in the team. Gilchrist asked him to open the innings against CSK in the 2nd match. Rest is history.
Valthaty went on to score the first century of IPL 2011 and single-handedly won the high chase against none but the defending champion Chennai Super Kings, who are also the overall best team of IPL. People were wondering if he would be another one-match wonder.
The next game was against Deccan Chargers, two time semifinalist and 2009 edition champion. But DC was also in disarray, yet their win against Royal Challengers Bangalore at home made them look strong contender for knock out again, despite two losses in first two matches.
With confidence rising high, DC was set to score a huge total. But, Valthaty factor disturbed the calculations. Valthaty was asked to bowl, when mainstream bowlers were not appearing so successful. He went on to take 4 wickets and restrict DC for an achievable 166 run target. Then, he opened the innings to chase from where he had left in the last match. Gilchrist also scored a quick 50. But, in front of Valthaty’s 47-ball 75 runs, Gilchrist knock appeared subdued. He was again elected the MOM for his allround match winning performance.
The form of Valthaty reminds of Shaun Marsh. In fact it is some steps ahead of 2008 performances too. He can bowl too and take wickets. His opening is full of aggression. He is already the join high scorer with Sachin Tendulkar scoring 201 runs in 3 innings. The way he is performing with bat, and also now with ball, he looks like taking Kings XI to the knockout on his own.
The only big difference is the performance of bowlers. 2008 saw 3 bowlers from Punjab taking 15 wickets or more. In last three matches in 2011 edition, apart from some good spells of Praveen Kumar, so far no bowler has emerged as match winner. In fact, Valthaty with a 4-wicket haul is their best bowler also right now.