RCB against Punjab's Bengaloreans

RCB against Punjab's Bengaloreans

A clutch of local talent will line up against Challengers in their second game

RCB against Punjab's Bengaloreans

After a setback against Kolkata Knight Riders in their opener, Royal Challengers Bangalore will be keen to make a winning return at the M Chinnaswamy stadium, which has been their fortress for a while barring the last season.

Loss of wickets in quick succession in the middle-order and their inability to stop a marauding Sunil Narine put paid to their hopes of a winning start to the season. RCB know they have to quickly put that defeat behind and regroup against Kings XI Punjab when they take on the R Ashwin-led side here on Friday.

Both Punjab and Bangalore wear a largely new look after the shakeup of players on either side in the January auction. While Bangalore let go of their long-serving batsman Chris Gayle and the talented KL Rahul, the Kings XI, having retained only Axar Patel, have had almost wholesale changes to their set-up. One interesting aspect of the Punjab side is the presence of Karnataka's batting riches.

Occupying three of the top four batting slots, Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair have made an immediate impact with two of them producing match-winning knocks. While Rahul set the tournament on fire with the fastest IPL fifty, Nair finished off the chase with a brisk 50. It will be fascinating to see many local boys turn up against their home franchise. It will also be interesting to see if Punjab opt to field Gayle, who has had a great success at Chinnaswamy.

RCB started off on a strong note with Brendon McCullum playing a typically attacking cameo and setting the tone for the innings but the middle-order didn't exactly perform to its potential. While their effort with the ball wasn't quite ordinary, they had no clue against Narine. Their spinners, who otherwise have been impressive for India, came in for some stick with paceman Umesh Yadav turning out to be a surprise package. With smaller boundaries here, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and off-spinner Washington Sundar can't afford to compromise on accuracy.

RCB came in for a lot of flak for the constant changes to the playing XI last season when they finished last. While some of them were because of a few injuries, quite a few appeared forced in a desperate bid to salvage what was turning out to be a disastrous campaign. The absence of patience is the nature of franchise cricket and while it would be harsh to axe any player after just one loss, RCB would do well bring in an Indian wicketkeeper-batsman purely as a tactical change.

By accommodating Parthiv Patel, who is a handy bat in this format, they would give themselves a cushion of playing an extra foreign player either a bowler or an all-rounder. Someone like Colin de Grandhomme, with his power-hitting and pace bowling, can provide depth and balance to the side. Skipper Virat Kohli had enjoyed great success while batting at the top, and it has to be seen if he sticks to No 3 which he did against Kolkata.

The pitch, which surprised everyone with its uncharacteristic slow and low nature last time, will be in the spotlight after it was relaid to make it more batsman-friendly. It remains to be seen whether it will behave on expected lines.


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