RCB in dire need of a spark

RCB in dire need of a spark

Few can contest the drive of Virat Kohli and his proficiency across the formats. But the modern-day great has invariably failed in contemporary cricket’s best-seller, the Indian Premier League. Year after year, the captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore has charmed with his individual brilliance but has found it difficult to spur his team in the league.

The pressure on Kohli has only intensified following RCB’s six successive defeats. Returning from a much-needed break, the Bengaluru outfit has now reached the heartland of northern India, to take on Kings XI Punjab in a night encounter at the PCA stadium on Saturday.

Kohli, for one, will be hoping to arrest the losing streak. Despite his run-of-form with the bat, doubts have arisen over his captaincy, his struggles against leg-spin, his repeated shuffling of the playing XI. He himself has gone from voicing staunch optimism to anger and resignation while reasoning RCB’s persistent failure to record a single win this season.

In the recent editions, RCB's batting has centred largely on Kohli and AB de Villiers, and nothing seemed to have changed much this time, too.

The RCB, particularly, have been haunted by dropped catches and poor bowling. Tim Southee might be exceptional in pacer-friendly conditions, but on Indian pitches, baked in tropical heat and slathered with dew in the evening, he has struggled. Navdeep Saini has shown promise but lacks experience. Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has done well to be among the top wicket-takers. But it is the absence of a strike bowler which is hurting RCB, particularly in the death overs.

A batting heavy Punjab will be hoping to make the most of RCB’s failings. They currently sit on eight points from seven matches but suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Mumbai Indians in their previous game when they failed to defend a 198-run target.

Still, Punjab’s batsmen are in form. KL Rahul is fresh from a century, Chris Gayle is riding the wave of Caribbean brilliance and Mayank Agarwal has been impressive at No 3. The middle order is a bit of problem for them too. However, what is plaguing Punjab currently is their injury concerns.

Ankit Rajpoot suffered a hand injury against Mumbai, Gayle didn’t field after picking up a back spasm and Agarwal skipped the previous match because of a finger injury. However, it is understood the Jamaican has recovered well and is expected to feature in Saturday’s clash.

Keeping in mind the dew, the toss can become crucial. In the three matches that took place here, two ended in favour of team batting second. The only aberration was caused by Delhi Capitals, who suffered a spectacular collapse.

Going into the contest, Punjab are the obvious favourites. For RCB, IPL continues to be a mystery, more so for Kohli. The horrid start has thinned the RCB’s possibilities of a play-off qualification, but a win here can inject some enthusiasm.