Wounded Challengers face listless Daredevils

Wounded Challengers face listless Daredevils

The full impact of the stunning heist that Rajasthan Royals pulled off on Sunday at the M Chinnaswamy stadium was revealed by two poignant pictures -- Yuvraj Singh’s dejected walk back to the hut, and Virat Kohli’s reddened eyes. The emotion was touchingly simple -- hurt.

Not just those two, but the entire Royal Challengers Bangalore squad would certainly be hurting because they had given all they could. Their batsmen notched up a formidable total and bowlers kept them in the game till the 17th over, only to lose it in the next three. That’s too strong a punch to get off the floor immediately, but they perforce have to do it against Delhi Daredevils on Tuesday.

Such is the nature of professional sport that it seldom allows sportspersons or teams sufficient time to recover from hard blows. Daredevils may be an equally or more struggling unit placed at the bottom of the table with just two wins, but Tuesday’s match, in reality, has nothing to do with the visitors’ form. It will be all about how much more Royal Challengers can produce on the field barely two days after suffering a physically and mentally draining defeat.

Their minds and bodies may be starving for a break, and lungs may be burning after emptying them of all the competitive energy, but they need to get past that empty feeling against Kevin Pietersen’s side, who might just be eager to cash in on a deflated opposition.

The route in front of Royal Challengers is clear -- they need to win all their remaining matches to be in contention for a berth in the play-offs. Still, they are almost certain to get into a mid-table squabble with a couple of other teams, but even for that they need to find a way to win consistently.

A few days earlier, it was safe to call M Chinnaswamy stadium the bastion on Royal Challengers. But now they don’t have that comfort either after losing to Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals in successive matches.

In many ways, those two matches were symptomatic of the ills that have been plaguing Royal Challengers in this edition of the IPL. Their batting and bowling fell apart miserably against Punjab, while their bowling was taken apart by Steve Smith and James Faulkner in the death overs.

Barely have they managed to string together consistent efforts with bat and ball in a single match. The lone crumb of comfort for the hosts -- if it can be called so -- will be the news of Chris Gayle’s availability.

Since making his first appearance of the season against Kings XI in UAE, Gayle has not been able to fire as expected, depriving Royal Challengers of the explosive starts of the past two seasons. The sight of the Jamaican walking off the field applying ice-pack on his shoulder after a making a diving save in the game against Royals could only have swelled the desperation in RCB ranks. But now they can at least hope for a Gayle show against Daredevils.

Like their opponents, Daredevils too have gone through a wretched time in this IPL. They have roped in a completely different group -- from coach to players -- to effect a turnaround in their fortunes after finishing with the wooden spoon last year, but it so far has brought only cosmetic results. Among the Delhi players, none has been more disappointing than Pietersen.

Free from his England duties in less than flattering circumstances, Pietersen was expected to score sackful of runs but till now he hasn’t managed to do that.

Daredevils may just have gone past the stage of hoping for a play-off berth, and Royal Challengers are perilously close. Will we see a different RCB on Tuesday?

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