Challengers need to regroup after Miller assault

Desperate Bangalore outfit takes on out-of-contention Daredevils

Challengers need to regroup after Miller assault

Royal Challengers Bangalore must be wondering at the swift turn of events. Perched on top of the table a few days ago, they now find themselves sitting on the fence. Yet another away game awaits them on Friday against out-of-race Delhi Daredevils and the Challengers would be looking to regroup to stay on course for the qualifying stage.

A painful loss from a winning position against Kings XI Punjab, thanks to David Miller’s stunning century, has pushed Challengers to fourth place with 14 points from 12 matches. With Chennai Super Kings through to the qualifying stage, Challengers find themselves behind Mumbai Indians (16) and Rajasthan Royals (16) with Sunrisers Hyderabad snapping at their heels.

A victory here is crucial for the Challengers to steer clear of any further trouble. But Challengers’ poor show in away clashes, too, cannot be overlooked.

True, they have had some close losses, but that has no bearing on the points table.

It is also a homecoming for skipper Virat Kohli, who has learnt his formative cricket lessons at the Feroze Shah Kotla stadium. The batting might of the team is well documented. When one has premium and consistently performing players in Chris Gayle, AB De Villiers and Kohli batting conditions matter little. But the same cannot be said of their bowling.

Running amok

Against Kings XI, despite scything their top order, the bowlers couldn’t stop Miller from running amok. Both R Vinay Kumar and RP Singh were hammered by the young South African, the latter conceding 26 runs in an over. While Ravi Rampaul has been decent with the new ball, the Challengers need a strike bowler to bank on. On the slow Kotla pitch, Murali Kartik , also well-versed with the conditions here, and Muttiah Muralitharan can be effective.

With Daredevils batting barely clicking, the bowlers can afford to take their chances. The home team’s three wins from 12 matches speak of its miserable season. Despite skipper Mahela Jayawardene’s emphatic declaration of their efforts to give something back to the fans, Daredevils fortunes have shown a steady decline. Even roping in West Indian great like Vivian Richards in the latter half of the competition couldn’t resuscitate the team from plunging to the penultimate place.

The lack of form of its key players has hit Daredevils hard. There have been flashes of
brilliance from Virender Sehwag, David Warner and Jayawardene but that’s been all to it. In their last match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Daredevils folded for a paltry 80.
They have won only one match here, against Mumbai Indians, which incidentally was also their first victory in the season after six straight losses thanks to Sehwag’s unbeaten 95. Their other two victories came at Raipur.

Daredevils’ bowling, which includes the likes of Irfan Pathan , Umesh Yadav, Ashish Nehra, Morne Morkel, Shahbaz Nadeem, Johan Botha, Ajit Agarkar and Jeevan Mendis, has failed to  make much impact. Morkel, the highest wicket-taker in the pervious season, has been a pale shadow of his past after joining the squad late.  With nothing to lose, one may give Daredevils an outside chance of coming good in home conditions. But Challengers are desperate. They cannot afford another loss; venue and conditions do not matter now.

Star watch

* DAVID WARNER: It has been a rather quiet IPL for David Warner. But the big hitting Australian announced his return to form with two unbeaten half-centuries in Raipur, both in winning causes. With Daredevils having nothing to lose now, he could be the potential threat for the RCB.

* CHETESHWAR PUJARA: Against Kings XI, Pujara, returning from injury, showed he can be as effective in the shorter format with his attacking strokeplay. Pujara has the capability to score quickly and provide a solid base for the team. He would be keen to make up for lost time.

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