Kohli-Smith rivalry to spice-up Sunday night's clash

Kohli-Smith rivalry to spice-up Sunday night's clash

There is going to be an interesting battle within the battle when Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore clash with fellow strugglers Rising Pune Supergiant, led by Steve Smith, in an IPL-10 match here at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Sunday.

There appeared to be no love lost between the two captains when accusations and counters flew thick and fast during the four-Test series between India and Australia for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy which Kohli’s men regained after a 2-1 verdict in bitterly-fought clashes. Conciliatory moves have been made by both Smith and Kohli since then but there is no denying that it’s going to be a grudge battle for the two sides. 
  
From their teams’ point of view, too, it’s going to be a crucial tie. Both Challengers and Supergiant have played four matches and have managed just a solitary win each. Only a marginally better net run-rate places Challengers at sixth position as opposed to Supergiant, who occupy the last spot in the eight-team league. 
 
With the return of Kohli for their previous match against Mumbai Indians here on Friday, Challengers batting regained its familiar formidable cloak. The strength, however, remained just on paper with the team failing to live up to its past batting exploits. Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers failed to kick on from the start they got while the in-form Kedar Jadhav was run out. Hearteningly for RCB, Kohli not only appeared to have shrugged off his indifferent form during the Tests against Australia but also betrayed few signs of discomfort having returned from an impact injury to his right shoulder. He looked in complete control en route his brisk 62 on a wicket where most of the batsmen failed to come to grips with its slowness.

That was the only knock of note in RCB’s innings that has been the bane of their batting this season. Since their loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad in the tournament opener, no two RCB batsmen have clicked together in one match. If it was Jadhav against Delhi Daredevils, de Villiers shone the brightest against Kings XI Punjab before Kohli’s lone act against Mumbai the other night. Given how Mumbai made heavy weather of the 143-run target, a few more runs wouldn’t have hurt RCB’s cause. The young replacements like Mandeep Singh, Vishnu Vinod and Sachin Baby too have failed to grab the opportunities that have come their way in the absence of injured duo of KL Rahul and Sarfaraz Khan.  

The bowling, their weak link in the last couple of seasons, has managed to remain effective after the first match but in the absence of big totals, their good work has been neutralised. Samuel Badree, who almost delivered RCB a victory with a hat-trick on Friday, was an inspiring choice against Mumbai. And it remains to be seen if they bring back Shane Watson in place of Gayle as the Aussie all-rounder bowled for a short while, after having an extended batting session during Saturday’s optional ‘nets’.

Supergiant too will be looking to snap their extended losing run. After a facile win over Mumbai in their opener, they have endured three drubbings, their campaign increasingly looking reminiscent of their show in the previous year. Not unlike RCB, Supergiant too are struggling with their batting and the inconsistency of their top-order batsmen is proving to be their biggest concern.

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