RCB, Mumbai look to gather momentum

RCB, Mumbai look to gather momentum

RCB, Mumbai look to gather momentum

There couldn’t ha­ve been any doubt over the desperation in Royal Challengers Bangalore ranks for a victory after three straight defeats in the first leg of the IPL held in UAE.

Eventually, they ended up on the right side of the result, battling past Sunrisers Hyderabad and their own nerves.  

But did Royal Challengers give us an assurance during that victory at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday about their ability to begin a winning spree in this edition of the IPL? Unfortunately, the win did precious little on that front.

It may be seen as an inconsiderate view at a joyous time for the Challengers’ fans, but that win indeed has masked fragility, a rather unthought-of one prior to the tournament. Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Yuvraj Singh were expected to be the batting bellwethers of RCB but they have yet to come to party together. There have been solos like the AB blitz against Hyderabad, but a grand opera is still missing after six matches and it cannot be left for late.

There will not be a better time to produce one than the match against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday at the Wankhede Stadium. It is mandatory too. Like the Chinnaswamy Stadium is a veritable fortress of Royal Challengers, Wankhede is Mumbai's stronghold.

They had pieced together a seven-match unbeaten streak last year and after five successive defeats in UAE, Mumbai scored their maiden win this season against Kings XI Punjab, till then an undefeated unit. In short, Mumbai is a different beast at Wankhede.
Magical knocks such as the one de Villiers played on Sunday have a surreal quality about them, capable of breaking strong barriers like club loyalty and regional leanings. But above that, those innings are also pointers, the most visible signs for teammates to regroup and join the act. Now it’s up to the likes of Gayle, Kohli, and Yuvraj to make sure that the AB innings wouldn’t fade away as a special yet an insignificant, lonely footnote.
Gayle has showed glimpses of his destructive abilities, Yuvraj has never been quite his own, and though looked in good touch Kohli has not been able to notch up substantial scores, thus reducing the firepower of Royal Challengers batting. In fact, the stuttering batting also has an underwhelming effect on RCB bowling, surprisingly top-notch thus far in the tournament.

Considered easy meat for opposition, the Royal Challengers bowling attack has seldom allowed other teams to run amok – maintaining a rough grip on them. But their inconsistent batting had spoiled their efforts in UAE before De Villiers produced a T20 classic against Hyderabad.

But Mumbai Indians will offer a different challenge. They have a strong batting line-up, though yet to play up to its full potential, and a capable set of bowlers led by the incomparable Lasith Malinga. But none stands out more in their line-up than Kieron Pollard.

In many ways, Pollard is Mumbai’s De Villiers with the bat. The burly West Indian can turn the match on its head in a matter of few overs like the South African, but more with raw power than finesse and creativity. The Trinidadian nearly pulled off a win for Mumbai singlehandedly against Sunrisers at Dubai, and Kings XI didn’t have any answers to Pollard’s beefy hits at Wankhede.

The victory against Punjab would have boosted Mumbai’s confidence, and they would now certainly look to move up the ladder. They will have to win almost all of their remaining matches to have a shot at a berth in the play-offs, so a determined and energetic Mumbai could be expected to be on the field.

It indeed is a tough task to stop Mumbai in their fortress. But de Villiers has shown a way that could inspire others to shed timidity and plunge into same kind of audacity.

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