Royal Challengers look to regain winning touch

Royal Challengers look to regain winning touch

Kohli's men take on Sunrisers Hyderabad in their first home tie

Royal Challengers look to regain winning touch

That big bucks and big names don’t always guarantee success had been proved in the very first edition of the Indian Premier League with Rajasthan Royals, an assortment of bits and pieces players, emerging the champions in 2008.

Not much appears to have changed in the cash-rich league which is in its seventh year. Mumbai, whose backroom staff has a collective experience of 635 Tests and who boast some of the finest exponents of T20 in their playing ranks, returned from the UAE leg without a win while a small team like Kings XI Punjab sprang a massive surprise, enjoying an unbeaten record.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore, too, are going through a similar patch with their famed batting line-up struggling to live up to its reputation. In Chris Gayle, skipper Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers (all retained) and Yuvraj Singh (bought for a whopping Rs 14 crore), the Challengers have one of the most feared batting groups in this format and yet they have the ignominy of having brought up the lowest total (70 all out against Rajasthan Royals) of this edition and third overall.

Agreed, Gayle has played just one of the five games but even so, it doesn’t justify their inability to manage the required 25 off 18 balls with seven wickets in hand against Kolkata Knight Riders. While Kohli and Yuvraj have blown hot and blown cold, de Villiers’ scores of 45 n.o., 11, 0 and 17 haven’t helped their cause at all. And Albie Morkel hasn’t lived up to his all-rounder’s tag.

Stuck in the lower half of the eight-team table after two wins and three consecutive losses, Bangalore would hope to resurrect their campaign when they take on fellow strugglers Sunrisers Hyderabad in the familiar environs of the M Chinnaswamy stadium here on Sunday evening. The sold-out holiday crowd firmly going to be behind them, the red and gold brigade will back themselves to set their batting house in order with Gayle, though not completely fit, most likely to open the innings.

The bowling unit, much against the popular perception, has been more than effective. The average runs so far it has given away per match is just under 130 which is an excellent effort. Led by the pacy Mitchell Starc and an equally quick Varun Aaron, the attack has been ably complemented by the experienced Ashok Dinda and Morkel. Young leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, too, has stood out with his economical spells. They will, however, face a different challenge on Indian pitches which are generally kind to batsmen. The relatively shorter boundaries in many venues, including the Chinnaswamy, are only likely to compound their problems.

The Sunrisers attack, consisting of Dale Steyn, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Irfan Pathan, will be up against a similar test as well. Of course, Steyn can be lethal even on a docile square but the batsmen will be less wary of him secure in the knowledge that pitches are going to be less tricky. It remains to be seen if Hyderabad swap leggie Amit Mishra with Ishant Sharma who has had some success against Gayle in the past.

Like RCB, Sunrisers too have a top-heavy batting line up. They have generally struggled whenever David Warner and Aaron Finch have failed to fire while skipper Shikhar Dhawan is yet come to the party, having managed a mere 85 runs from five innings. The left-handed opener will be hoping the India-leg will bring him some better luck but first he will have to overcome the short-pitched stuff that Starc and company are going to dish him out.