Having putting up one of their worst batting performances in their previous encounter against Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore wouldn’t be in the right frame of mind as they take on the best side in the competition so far, Kings XI Punjab. But, such is the nature of the IPL that teams cannot to cry over spilt milk for too long. As such, Bangalore would have to shrug off the disastrous effort against the Royals and must look to do well against Punjab. It definitely wouldn’t help their cause that RCB would be facing a team on a roll. But, if they need to pick a positive out of the difficult scenario, it is that they wouldn’t be expected win and, as underdogs, can go out and express themselves.
Without doubt, the absence of Chris Gayle has left a gaping hole at the top of the order. Over the last couple of seasons, Gayle has singlehandedly pulled off wonderful wins for Bangalore. But, it is still not clear when he will be fit to take strike Bangalore can only hope that he gets fit at the earliest, but till then they need to devise an alternate winning formula. Their top and middle order batting needs to put its hand up and deliver, now that they have suffered two embarrassing defeats.
It isn’t that Bangalore don’t have the players to deliver. In fact, they have an extremely strong batting line-up. Skipper Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Yuvraj Singh are capable of single-handedly turning the fortunes of a match. But, none has been at his best in this event so far. Kohli has been surprisingly below par. May be the pressure of leadership is taking a toll on him. As for de Villiers, he has looked good a couple of times, but hasn’t been as destructive as expected. Yuvraj, meanwhile, seems to be continuing his struggles from the World T20. Expect for Parthiv Patel, no Bangalore batsman has looked comfortable out in the middle.
Punjab may be on a high having won four out of four, but the last win against Kolkata Knight Riders would have given them immense satisfaction since it was achieved without significant contributions from Glenn Maxwell and David Miller. Punjab now know that they can depend on their bowlers even if the two Ms fail. Having said that, the rest of batting line-up needs to start firing sooner rather than later.
As for their bowling, Punjab would hope that they continue from where they left off against KKR. Sandeep Sharma was excellent in that match, getting the ball to move around with great results. The game also saw Mitchell Johnson hitting some form of old. He has struggled somewhat for rhythm following a toe infection, but the franchise would be pleased with what they witnessed in the last game. L. Balaji and Akshar Patel have been providing much-needed variety to the bowling, making Punjab one of the most versatile line-ups this season. For sure, Bangalore would have their task cut out.
--By A Cricket Analyst