RCB have a royal challenge in hands

PILLARS OF STRENGTH: RCB cannot afford to over-depend on the duo of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. PTI

One swallow doesn’t a summer make, and so Royal Challengers Bangalore’s win on Saturday night after six successive losses shouldn’t be confused for a change in trend.

Needing to win all their last eight matches to give themselves a shot at play-offs after succumbing to Delhi Capitals in Bengaluru, RCB pulled off one against Kings XI Punjab to keep their thin hopes burning but can they maintain the momentum for the rest of their league campaign?

It’s a big, big ask and Mumbai Indians will test their resolve on Monday here in their return match at the Wankhede Stadium.

The last time these two sides met at Chinnaswamy, it saw a thrilling end -- albeit an anticlimactic one for RCB – where Mumbai just managed to cross over the line despite AB de Villiers’ assault. With four wins from seven matches, Mumbai are placed much higher in the table. Rohit Sharma’s men have appeared more vulnerable than their position suggests otherwise.

Fresh on the back of their first win of the season and the fact that they came close to beating Mumbai in the first leg, RCB would be feeling confident going into Monday’ match. Despite their hopes balancing on a razor’s edge, RCB were refreshingly positive in their approach against Kings XI and that should be their template going forward.

The bowling unit pulled things back nicely to restrict Kings XI to a gettable total though there are a couple of concerns in the attack. While leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has been their best bowler, paceman Navdeep Saini has shown promise.

It’s, however, the more experienced Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Siraj who have been disappointing. RCB, who went with just three foreign players on Saturday, may want to try left-arm seamer Kulwant Kejroliya against Mumbai in place of Siraj. The Delhi paceman’s left-arm option also provides variety to the attack.

Though a few catches were dropped again, fielding showed marked improvement while batting lived up to its reputation. The Kings XI match once again proved how dependent RCB are on skipper Virat Kohli and de Villiers. While there are few teams that can stop the Bengaluru franchise when these two batsmen fire in tandem, it’s also unreasonable to expect the duo to keep scoring all the time. It’s time the middle-order took responsibility.

Kohli’s captaincy, meanwhile, continued to puzzle as he never thought it is prudent to hand left-arm spinner Pawan Negi the ball. Maybe the presence of the left-handed Chris Gayle discouraged him from doing so but given that both Chahal and off-spinner Moeen Ali had conceded just 52 runs between them in eight overs, it would have been worth trying Negi instead of persisting with Siraj who conceded 54 in his four overs. To play Negi just as a batsman is a bit of a luxury.

Having failed to defend a big total against Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai will come hard at Bangalore and with Kohli’s men too expected to play uninhibited, an exciting contest promises to be on cards.

 

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