RCB look to bow out on a high

RCB look to bow out on a high

RCB look to bow out on a high

Few teams would like to be in the place where Royal Challengers Bangalore find themselves now.

Their hopes of entering the Play-offs are over, there is no real, tangible goal remaining to achieve, but they will have to go through one more match against the Chennai Super Kings on Saturday.

It’s a tough situation to be in for them because they need to generate extra ounces of motivation for one final match of a roller-coaster season. They now need to put on the mask of competitiveness when their minds might already have been craving for a break. But behind that, the hosts will acknowledge that they have been far less consistent than a format like the IPL demands. 

A batting line-up consisting some of the finest limited-over batsmen never really lived up to its billing. Skipper Virat Kohli, who has also been a tad unforunate not to have converted his starts into something more substantial, and Yuvraj Singh found a way to score late in the tournament, AB de Villiers produced a couple of gems but wasn’t in his elements consistently, and Chris Gayle was a mere shadow of that usually intimidating batsman. 

Gayle’s was the most noticeable lean patch among all of them -- 196 runs from 9 matches at 21.77 at a strike rate of 106.52 with a highest of 46 – depriving Royal Challengers momentum upfront. The extent of their inconsistency was such that the Royal Challengers even lost two matches in a row at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, their comfort zone, also dealing a heavy blow to their Play-off aspirations.  It was not just the batsmen, their bowlers too didn’t rise to the occasion. In the first leg at UAE, the Royal Challengers bowlers had, surprisingly, outdone their batsmen, restricting the opposition and setting up easy targets for the team. But once the tournament shifted to India for the second leg, they tapered off, leaking runs in buckets. Their failure to be among the top four means that the Royal Challengers will not be seen in action in the Champions League as well later this year, and the game against CSK is one last chance for them to show gratitude to the home fans. 

They have stuck behind Royal Challengers in good and bad days, and they need a moment to rejoice, a solid reassurance that their team will bounce back stronger next time -- never mind that year-long gap -- and they deserve that for their unflinching loyalty.  On the contrary, the Super Kings have assured themselves of a berth in the Play-offs and they can play without any pressure. Despite that it is not all rosy in their camp either. The two-time IPL champions have lost the last three matches against Royal Challengers, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad in that order, denting their image of invincibility to an extent. That Brendon McCullum has returned home on a paternity leave also compounded their worries, robbing them of explosive starts as Dwayne Smith was paired with make-shift openers. 

Even the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni too hasn’t been on target as some of his punts like giving the last over to David Hussey against Royal Challengers at Ranchi have backfired. They would be eager to end the league assignments on a winning note, and it will also help them to enter the knockout phase in a better frame of mind. Chennai are past masters of taming pressure situations, and expect them to come up in full force against the Royal Challengers, who would be aiming for a strong counterpunch.