Challengers look to overcome early-season blues

BIG WORRY RCB would want opener Brendon McCullum to find his form quickly as they struggle to seek consistency. DH file photo

At the start of the IPL season, the Royal Challengers Bangalore appeared well balanced on paper. With plenty of quality options, they were expected to make a bright start.

Their rivals on Tuesday, Mumbai Indians, with an enviable number of big-match players in their ranks, were also tipped to begin their title defence with little trouble. But old habits die hard.

Three matches into the 11th edition, both the teams have struggled to find stability, a familiar problem for both the teams. The Challengers have blown hot and cold early in their campaign in the past while Mumbai are known to be notoriously slow starters.

When the two sides clash here at the Wankhede stadium, the battle will be to get a move on from the shaky situation and address their worrying issues in the process. The pressure, though, will be slightly higher on the defending champions, who are yet to register a single win.

The manner in which they have gone down in all three ties has left Mumbai frustrated. After a penultimate ball finish in the league opener, Mumbai took the next two games till the final ball but failed to prevail. But as witnessed many times in the last decade, Mumbai have the enormous ability to come alive from the dead. The three-time title winners have got the better of RCB at home in the previous two editions and that should give them a psychological edge.

The Challengers’ haven’t come together as a unit yet. The opening pair of Brendon McCullum and Quinton de Kock has belied expectations with the former flopping in the last two matches. The duo was supposed to ease the burden on AB de Villiers and captain Virat Kohli.

Mandeep Singh could be the fine finisher RCB is looking for but the right-hander has received minimal support from the others in the middle-order. The Challengers seem to have lost faith in right-handed batsman Sarfaraz Khan, whose retention surprised many. Pawan Negi’s recent record with the bat isn’t encouraging and RCB could think of playing Manan Vohra.

The spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar hasn’t disappointed but the pace attack has been far from effective. Left-arm seamer Kulwant Khejroliya doesn’t look threatening while Chris Woakes’ poor economy rate has cost RCB dear. The think-tank might decide to give Collin de Grandhomme a chance in place of the England all-rounder. Umesh Yadav did well in the first two matches but leaked runs against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday.

For Mumbai, Rohit finding form will be crucial. The right-hander, who opened the innings in the first two games, moved lower down the order in the last match against Delhi Daredevils. But nothing seems to be working for Rohit who has accumulated just 44 runs. With the presence of Jasprit Bumrah, Mustafizur Rahman and the Pandya brothers —Hardik and Krunal -- Mumbai’s attack is high on experience. However, barring Bumrah, all the others have been erratic.

The Wankhede, with short boundaries, has favoured teams batting second and the toss could play a vital role.

 

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