Advantage Bangalore in opening clash

Hopes high as Kumbles men take on South Africas Cape Cobras

They were the stuff of innumerable jokes in 2008, but more than a year down the line they have become a champion outfit and premier contenders for the Champions League title.  A runners-up finish in the Indian Premier League II in May has done wonders for the Bangalore outfit, not just in terms of an image shift but also filling the unit with oodles of confidence.

Precsiely it is that desire to win that makes Anil Kumble’s men overwhelming favourites against Cape Cobras, the top South African club side, in the inaugural Champions League match here on Thursday.

It is not just the ambition that makes the Bangalore side a tough entity. They also have the right team combination to excel in the sub-continental conditions. RCB have two excellent spinners in Kumble and South African Roelof van der Merwe, their pace attack safe in the hands of Dale Steyn, Praveen Kumar and R Vinay Kumar. While the presence of Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis adds solidity to batting, the meaty willows of Ross Taylor, Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa lend muscle to it.

It is this assortment of youth and experience that gives Bangalore an edge in the tournament.  Then there is the inspiring presence of Kumble, a veteran of many epic battles during an international career that had a span of 19 years. The leg-spinner has managed to strike the right chord with both foreign recruits and local players while his performance with the ball has remained classy as it ever has been.

“It is good to play in Bangalore after a long time and it will be good to have the crowd support. We can turn it to an advantage,” Kumble said. Kallis echoed that feeling.  “Crowd support will play a role and we obviously know the the ground. I think it will be to our advantage,” Kallis said.

The only sore point in Bangalore’s preparation is the loss of Jesse Ryder as the New Zealander had suffered an injury during the Champions Trophy. But the team management has high hopes on young all-rounder Bhuvaneshwar Kumar.

The pitch at the M Chinnaswamy stadium, though a bit slow and low, can produce some gripping contests as the Karnataka Premier League revealed recently. This kind of surface may not be to the liking of Cape Cobras, brought up on pacy and bouncy South African pitches, and their hopes of progressing in the tournament are pinned directly upon Herschelle Gibbs and Jean-Paul Duminy.

The absence of regular skipper Graeme Smith is a huge blow for them, Cobras will be hoping that Gibbs, Duminy, all-rounder Vernon Philander and paceman Monde Zondeki will spew some venom on the morrow. But the advantage clearly lies with the RCB.
DH News Service

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