Struggling RCB face Royals test

Struggling RCB face Royals test

 Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals have little in common. Led by someone who is certainly -- all things being equal that is -- going to lead India sooner rather than later, Bangalore are flashy and brim with flamboyant players. Royals, on the other hand, are less glamorous and make do with judicious buys than splurging on big names.

However, mentored by Rahul Dravid who himself craved little for limelight, Royals are unmatched when it comes to fighting spirit. From their 42-year-old leg-spinner Pravin Tambe, winner of two man-of-the-match awards with a hat-trick to boast this season, to the young Karnataka batsman Karun Nair, they have players that will quietly get the job done. That they are placed third in the points table ahead of some of the ‘stronger’ outfits justifies their philosophy of putting money where their mouth is.

How Royal Challengers would wish some of their big names had showed half the intent and desire that Royals’ players have displayed. After slumping to their fifth defeat in their last six matches, the Virat Kohli-led side has an uphill task of making the play-offs. They have reached a point of no return; in that they can’t afford any more slip ups, starting with their Sunday’s clash against Royals.
  
In the initial stage of the event in the UAE only their batting, contrary to expectations, appeared to be Challengers’ weak link but as the event has progressed they are facing multipronged problems.

Bangalore’s bowlers had an excellent outing in the UAE leg, restricting opponents’ innings to just under 130 on an average. In the three matches of the India leg, though, they have gone for 155/5 (Sunrisers Hyderabad), 187/5 (Mumbai Indians) and 198/8 (Kings XI Punjab). They barely managed to scale down the Hyderabad target while in the other two matches their famed batting came down crumbling.

While Mitchell Starc had a rare off day on Friday against Kings XI, the likes of Ashok Dinda, Varun Aaron and Harshal Patel have been easy meats on Indian pitches. Only leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has maintained some level of consistency. Another of better features, fielding, is increasingly falling apart compounding their problems.

The biggest worry has to be the form of Kohli and Gayle. It’s not just the lack of runs from the Bangalore captain that is a concern but the manner of his dismissals -- poking at widish deliveries or nicking an innocuous delivery round his legs -- that must have left team management pondering. And there seems to no end to Yuvraj Singh’s woes. Every time you think the southpaw has shown signs of regaining his regal touch, he takes two steps back.

It might be tempting to leave out the 32-year-old to give him some time to introspect and sort out his game but the reserve strength is hardly inspiring. Hitting the right combination has been one big struggle for the Bangalore side. Amidst all these problems the last thing the home team needs is a rain intervention. The unseasonal rains stayed away during their Friday’s match but threaten to disrupt Sunday match.

In the previous game when Challengers met Royals, the hosts had come up with their worst ever batting show -- 70 all out -- and while that performance can be dismissed as an one-off, they need to get their act together. Having suffered a setback in their last match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Royals will be keen to get back to winning ways. And you can expect Shane Watson’s team to come hard at Challengers.
   

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