Royals face Gayle threat

Surprise availability of Dilshan will boost Challengers chances of extending run

Royals face Gayle threat

The Kiwi had answered in the affirmative when asked if Dilshan had played his last game of the season after the Bangalore encounter against Kochi Tuskers Kerala on Sunday.

But the left-arm spinner clarified here on Tuesday that he was under the (false) impression that the opener would be leaving after the Kochi game.

Be that as it may, such has been Chris Gayle’s influence on Royal Challengers Bangalore’s fortunes that even the departure of the newly-appointed Sri Lankan captain, as and when it does happen, may not be considered more than a minor jolt by the team’s think tank. Barring Mumbai Indians, no team this season has conjured five consecutive wins and most of the credit for Royal Challengers’ extraordinary run of wins should go to the big West Indian.

That’s not to suggest that others haven’t had any role in Bangalore’s upsurge. Virat Kohli (team’s highest run-getter with 348) is batting like a dream, Zaheer Khan appears to have regained his rhythm, Vettori continues to be as frugal as ever (he has best economy rate in the team at 5.58) and left-arm seamer S Arvind has been outstanding in the last two matches. But with three man of the match awards, two centuries and five wickets with the second best economy rate among his team-mates, Gayle has been the game-changer for RCB.

A win over Royals will all but seal their place in the play-offs, but Vettori made it clear the other night that he was targeting much more than one victory. It’s interesting that a side which was just hoping to somehow finish in the top four to make it to the qualifiers after three successive losses now doesn’t want to settle for a place less than the top two.

The Royal Challengers will also be looking to exploit Royals’ ‘lost’ grip at their home turf.

Sawai Man Singh was considered Shane Warne’s fortress but Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings have managed to breach the bastion with great ease this edition.

While Kolkata chased down the target without a sweat, Chennai scored a thumping 63-run win on Monday night. With Royals’ confidence having taken a beating and the war of words over the pitch between the team management and the host association adding to the confusion, Challengers will fancy their chances of keeping the momentum going. The opening match between the two sides in Bangalore was washed out but the possibility of rain here is remote.

The chances of a typical slow and low SMS surface too are equally slim following a missive from IPL chairman Chirayu Amin on the guidelines to prepare pitches. Given their lack of depth in batting, Royals’ strategy has been to chase low totals rather than set big targets but much to their disbelief they were ‘forced’ to play on a belter against CSK with disastrous consequences.

Much of Royals’ batting woes stem from Shane Watson and Ross Taylor’s inability to stack up runs to their abilities, though Rahul Dravid has done his bit with 262 runs, the highest individual aggregate for Royals. Johan Botha’s initial enterprise with the bat no longer visible Royals’ batting appears the weakest among top five teams.

Despite Warne making clear his displeasure over the nature of the track, it is unlikely that the pitch will be designed to blunt the Gayle edge. But even if they do, Royals know they will need more than just a suitable centrepiece to stop the gale force.

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