Pressure on RCB to deliver
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) would need to play their best game of the Indian Premier League (IPL) season to not just overcome a rampant league leaders Kings XI Punjab here Friday, but also revive their own flagging fortunes.
At precisely half-way stage of their 14-match league campaign, RCB have just six points from three wins in contrast to Punjab's 12 after seven games.
The difference between the two teams reflects not just the points, but also the consistency, something that RCB skipper Virat Kohli and his team have been unable to achieve thus far.
Meanwhile, the city has been experiencing intermittent showers that have provided relief from the sweltering heat in the past few days and thundershowers are forecast for Friday.
The George Bailey-led Kings XI, fresh from routing Chennai Super Kings after making 231 Wednesday night at Cuttack for their sixth win, would be obviously looking to consolidate their position at the top as a couple of more victories would seal their spot in the play-offs that will involve the top four league finishers.
Thus, the two opponents present a study in contrast in terms of performance, both individual and collective. While Punjab have profited largely on Glenn Maxwell's massive contributions with the bat, Bangalore have struggled to get into any sort of rhythm or consistency.
Punjab have had a fairytale IPL-7 with five consecutive victories in the UAE to start with before suffering a reverse against hosts Mumbai after the tournament shifted back to India before blasting their way to a 44-run win against the Chennai Super Kings at Cuttack.
The critical element in Punjab's victories has been the Aussie youngster Maxwell whom Mumbai released after buying him for a million dollars last year but playing him in only three matches. Scores of 95, 89, 95, 15, 6, 45 and 90 aptly reflect Maxwell's consistency, and he is not quite finished yet.
Thus, it is to be expected that Kohli's men will be targeting Maxwell, though the home team would also need to keep a sharp eye on opener Virender Sehwag who has shown signs of regaining his touch, South African David Miller and of course, skipper George Bailey.
Lending balance to the Punjab team are its bowlers, notably spearhead Mitchell Johnson apart from fellow-seamers Sandeep Sharma and the crafty Laxmipathy Balaji with Maxwell and young Akshar Patel filling in as spinners.
RCB too have appeared strong on paper with a line-up of aggressive batsmen led by Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli, backed by quality bowlers such as Morne Morkel, Mitchell Starc, Varun Aaron and spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.
Yet, RCB have not been able to fire on all fronts and in unision. While Gayle is still to recover fully from a troublesome back, Kohli and de Villiers have not been consistent enough while their hottest signing of the season Yuvraj Singh who commanded a fee of Rs 14 Crore, has done little to justify his price tag.
The bowling too has been rather iffy with Morkel being uncharacteristically expensive while Starc and Aaron have failed to achieve timely breakthroughs on a regular basis.
In fact, RCB's ineptness was cruelly exposed by Punjab when the two last met in Dubai on April 28. RCB were pegged to 124 for eight, a target that Punjab achieved with seven balls to spare.
Though RCB bounced back by winning at home against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kohli's men promptly lost the away game to Mumbai earlier this week.
Thus, RCB, who will be under pressure, face an uphill task on the morrow against Punjab, the hottest team of the season, who will start as the favourites with the ability to deliver another body blow to the hosts.
(Posted on 08-05-2014)