RCB run into familiar foe CSK

FOCUSED CSK skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni during a practice session, ahead of their Sunday's match against RCB in Bengaluru on Saturday. DH Photo/ Ranju P

There have been theories galore explaining Royal Challengers Bangalore’s dreadful run in the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League. A simple statistic further highlights RCB’s misery.

First time in the history of the league, RCB haven’t won a single home game in their first nine games of the league. The Challengers have a reputation of being formidable at home and Stephen Fleming, coach of Chennai Super Kings – RCB’s opponent here at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Sunday – reinstated the fact. 

“To play Bangalore in Bangalore is one of the toughest challenges in IPL,” said Fleming at the pre-match press conference on Saturday.

But such has been RCB’s struggle this time that this one positive trend has also been broken. In the three matches at their fortress – against Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Capitals – Virat Kohli’s men have finished second best.

RCB are a team hanging on the slimmest of hopes of making the play-offs. But KKR’s duo of Andre Russell (85) and Nitish Rana (65) had almost shut the door on the Challengers’ campaign with their quickfire 118-run stand at the Eden Gardens on Friday. While RCB managed to prevail narrowly by 10 runs, they can’t afford to leave it too late against Super Kings who are masters at finishing tense games.

The great rivalry between the teams is undeniable but the uncertainty around two big names – AB de Villiers and Mahendra Singh Dhoni – could rob the sheen of the encounter. De Villiers missed RCB’s previous game due to a minor concussion and it is learnt that the management is awaiting medical clearance. 

Dhoni, who sat out of the tie against Sunrisers Hyderabad due to back spasm, did light training on Saturday. “We will see how both Dhoni and Bravo (Dwayne) scrub up at the end of the training and then take a call on both of them,” Fleming said.

Fleming, who had a quick look at the pitch, predicted a high-scoring game. While a run-fest will please the ever-enthusiastic Chinnaswany crowd, they would be hoping for a clear weather. The city has witnessed rain on three of the last four days but KSCA’s high-tech SubAir system should come in as a relief for cricket lovers.

RCB’s bowling, for the umpteenth time, will be in focus again. So will be skipper Kohli’s decision-making skills, especially on his choice of bowlers at the crucial junctures of the game. Challengers’ fielding too has been below-par and on small grounds like the Chinnaswamy, no total is safe if your fielding unit isn’t disciplined.

Kohli’s century, his first IPL ton since 2016, isn’t a good news for CSK. Apart from the skipper’s match-winning ability, Moeen Ali’s successive game-changing knocks have come as a welcome relief for RCB. Steyn, who has made a late entry to the Challengers’ squad, can lift the confidence of the bowling attack with his infectious energy and experience.

The Super Kings need one win to all but confirm their play-offs berth. After a defeat to Sunrisers, their second of the season, the consistent CSK wouldn’t prefer more wake-up calls.

It was against Chennai that Royal Challengers’ miserable run began. In a forgettable lung opener, RCB were skittled out for 70 and suffered a seven-wicket defeat. A slip-up here on Sunday, against the same opponent, will well and truly shut the hopes of Kohli’s men.

 

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