After getting pummelled by one heavyweight champion in their season-opener last weekend, a smarting Royal Challengers Bangalore have to get their act together quickly to avoid a repeat act as they host another heavyweight performer in Mumbai Indians here on Thursday.
Chennai Super Kings, against whom RCB suffered a severe seven-wicket drubbing, and Mumbai Indians are the two most successful franchises in the Indian Premier League with three titles each. And the Royal Challengers’ record against both the teams is not one bit flattering.
In 23 appearances against CSK, RCB managed to win just seven times and the record against Mumbai Indians is only marginally better — nine wins against 14 defeats. Major reasons behind RCB’s poor show are over-dependence on the star duo of Virat Kohli and A B de Villiers and the inability of the bowlers to deliver at the death.
At the 2018 auctions, the Royal Challengers think-tank bolstered the batting and bowling with some good buys but their efforts so far haven’t borne the necessary fruits. The team is still overly reliant on Kohli and de Villiers and the opening game against CSK was another proof of it. Kohli and de Villiers got out for a combined tally of 15 runs and barring Parthiv Patel (29), none of the other batsmen put their hands up on a turning Chepauk track as RCB were bundled out for 70.
Guys like Moeen Ali, Shimron Hetmyer, Shivam Dubey and Colin de Grandhomme, brought to add muscle to the fragile middle-order, need to step up and the game against Mumbai Indians at the Chinnaswamy Stadium present them a perfect opportunity to showcase their skill and ambition.
With Marcus Stoinis and Nathan Coulter-Nile out on international duty until March 31, the next few games are of great significance for de Grandhomme and Ali. If they flop, then they may just have to warm the benches once the two Aussies return. Skipper Kohli has the option of playing big-hitting South African batsman Heinrich Klaasen on Thursday but he’ll probably give the talented Hetmyer a few more chances.
RCB fielded three pacers against CSK and there’s a possibility of one of them making way for either Pawan Negi or Washington Sundar — both spinners. With de Grandhomme and Dubey being the seaming all-rounders, Kohli has the option of getting a few overs from them during the middle phase.
Mumbai will be itching to bounce back after the pasting they received at the hands of Delhi Capitals in their lung-opener. In that game, Jasprit Bumrah injured his left shoulder and although the pace ace bowled during Wednesday’s nets without much discomfort, the management may not risk him considering it’s just the second game of the season.
Both RCB and MI will be striving to get on board, which should make for compelling viewing.