Challengers look to scalp confident Kolkata

Languishing at the bottom half, Kohli's men can't afford any more slip-ups

Challengers look to scalp confident Kolkata

Finding themselves in pretty much the same situation as last year, an inconsistent Royal Challengers Bangalore stare at a make-or-break week as the Indian Premier League swings into the all-important second half.

Starting with the game against Kolkata Knight Riders here at the Eden Gardens on Sunday, the Royal Challengers — with just 4 points from 6 games — play a total of four games in a seven-day spell.

In a sport where momentum and fortunes change in the blink of an eye, the Royal Challengers very well know any slip-ups during this hectic ride could prove detrimental to their hopes of making the play-offs with all eight teams very much in the reckoning.

Beset by injuries and subsequent selection woes that has seen them field a different side for all the games so far, the Royal Challengers have failed to fire as an unit and suffered some bruising losses. That lack of zing saw even skipper Virat Kohli — who normally backs his team to the hilt — and coach Daniel Vettori admonish the squad, demanding courage and intent after suffering a fourth defeat against Rising Pune Supergiant last week.

The team then responded to the captain’s calls with a hard-fought win over Gujarat Lions at Rajkot on Tuesday. Chris Gayle, the marauder in the RCB batting line-up had failed to find the spark and saw himself being benched, stormed back into form with a typically brutal 38-ball 77.

Kohli too essayed class with a free-stroking 64 while the dangerous Travis Head and Kedar Jadhav also blossomed as RCB posted the highest score of this edition —213/2. And when the bowlers held their nerve amidst a Brendon McCullum onslaught and a late blitzkrieg from the talented Ishan Kishan, the smiles returned on the faces of RCB. The Challengers will also be welcoming back AB de Villiers, the South African who missed the previous game due injury. De Villiers didn’t play the opening two games as well and the RCB camp will be hoping the 33-year-old stays strong for the remainder of the season.

Last season too RCB found themselves in a trench at the midway stage but they dished out a brilliant performance towards the closing stages, winning six of their last seven league matches to end second in the table. While it’s hard to replicate such heroics, they have very little choice but to go all-out from here on. And for that to happen, even the bowlers will have to step it up, a constant weakness of RCB.

Kolkata Knight Riders, sitting pretty on eight points, will be eager to bounce back after going down to Gujarat Lions in a high-scoring affair on Friday. Sunil Narine has been a revelation at the top of the order while the Karnataka duo of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey have been in good touch. Gautam Gambhir has led from the front well and with the likes of Shakib al Hasan and Chris Woakes in their ranks, their batting is well sorted. Their problem, though, has been the bowling.

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