RCB eager for first home win

RCB eager for first home win

RCB eager for first home win

Up against Daniel Vettori’s men, determined to go into a one-week break on a winning note, are the beleaguered Pune Warriors, whose performances have borne no resemblance to the strength and depth they illustrate on paper.

Yuvraj Singh has led from the front, but he has largely had to plough a lone furrow, what with the Warriors’ top-order batting extremely disappointing. It’s exactly this failing that the Royal Challengers will seek to exploit at the Chinnaswamy stadium, though it must be said that they themselves haven’t been precise and disciplined with the ball.

Much as the Challengers, and their dedicated band of home followers, would love to believe that the momentum is with them, there is little evidence thus far in this season’s IPL to suggest that momentum is a significant factor. Mumbai Indians apart, teams have struggled to stitch together a string of victories. There has been an alarming yo-yoing of form and fortunes, hence the massive shake-up in the points table on a daily basis.
Chris Gayle’s explosive arrival has lent a touch of flamboyance and destructiveness to the Challengers’ batting, but it will be an exaggeration to state that the batting is firing on all cylinders. New Sri Lankan skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan has blown more cold than hot, while South African AB de Villiers has tapered off after a blistering start.

Throw in the lack of runs, and perhaps confidence, of Saurabh Tiwary and Cheteshwar Pujara, and the over-reliance on Gayle and Virat Kohli becomes all too obvious. Fortunately, Gayle’s brief stint thus far has been very fruitful while the classy Kohli has been in glorious touch, his silken half-century against the Delhi Daredevils the perfect reply to those who believe there is little place for orthodoxy in the frenetic Twenty20 format.

The Challengers, though, can’t afford to be dependent entirely on the Gayle-Kohli show. This is as good a time as any for the rest to put their hand up, particularly because the Warriors are low on confidence after four consecutive defeats have nullified their electric start to the season. There is no earthly reason why a batting line-up that comprises Jesse Ryder, Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa and Mithun Manhas -- Graeme Smith has missed the last few games through injury -- should have to be shored up time and again by Yuvraj. The skipper has continued to plunder runs, but the rest haven’t been consistent enough or offered him adequate support so that what ought to be their stronger suit has underachieved time after time.

They will have to contend with the experience and expertise of Zaheer Khan and Vettori, as well as the street-smart left-arm spin of Syed Mohammad, but there is enough quality in the Warriors ranks to emphatically shrug away their recent woes. The Challengers’ challenge will be to keep the pressure on them from the word go and sustain it for the length of the innings, because in the three-hour game, even a momentary lapse can prove fatal.

The Warriors’ bowling has held up well, veteran Protean Alfonso Thomas splendidly parsimonious and left-arm spinner Murali Kartik more than a handful. They have, however, often been asked to make up for the lackadaisical approach of their batsmen, a task that has understandably been beyond them.

Uthappa, Pandey and Ryder have all played for the Challengers, but given the virtually completely new look the hosts wear, they can’t bank too much on familiarity. That said, home boys Uthappa and Pandey will feel the need to prove a point or two, especially the latter who might hold his former franchise responsible for his four-match ban, and decide this is payback time.

Teams (from): Royal Challengers Bangalore: Daniel Vettori (capt), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Saurabh Tiwary, Cheteshwar Pujara, Syed Mohammad, Abhimanyu Mithun, Zaheer Khan, S Arvind, Mayank Agarwal, Asad Pathan, Charl Langeveldt, Rilee Rossouw, Johan van der Wath, Ryan Ninan, Jonathan Vandiar, CM Gautam, Luke Pomersbach, Nuwan Pradeep, Mohammad Kaif, Abrar Kazi, KB Arun Karthik, BN Bharath.

Pune Warriors: Yuvraj Singh (capt), Jesse Ryder, Mohnish Mishra, Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa, Mithun Manhas, Mitchell Marsh, Rahul Sharma, Alfonso Thomas, Murali Kartik, Jerome Taylor, Graeme Smith, Nathan McCullum, Wayne Parnell, Tim Paine, Shrikant Wagh, Imtiyaz Ahmed, James Faulkner, Eklavya Dwivedi, Callum Ferguson, Ganesh Gaikwad, Harpreet Singh, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Kamran Khan, Harshad Khadiwale, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dheeraj Jadhav, Shrikant Mundhe, Sachin Rana.