RCB look to break MI stranglehold

RCB will have to regroup and find winning ways again if they are to make it to the IPL play-offs this time. DH photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

Virat Kohli pulled off a spectacular diving catch running in from long-on to dismiss Kolkata Knight Riders’ Dinesh Karthik on Sunday night. Normally, such efforts by the Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper will be accompanied by exuberant celebrations and sometimes a strongly-worded send-off for the batsman.

But, all a dejected Kohli did was hurl the ball back angrily, hardly interested in seeing the faces of the rest of his team-mates as a sloppy RCB let slip another fantastic opportunity to get a win on board. Champion teams always find a way to win tough games but mediocre ones frequently find a way to lose matches that are within their grasp. Exactly at the halfway stage of their group campaign, the Royal Challengers Bangalore have looked nothing but ordinary, despite having a well-rounded squad.

The problems for RCB are aplenty and following five defeats from seven games, the task in front of them has just become herculean. If they wish to qualify for the play-offs, they have to win six of the remaining seven games.

Looking worse for the wear, they will hope to kick-start their resurrection against defending champions Mumbai Indians, who are slowly finding their mojo after a terrible start. RCB have a pathetic record against the three-time champions, having lost 14 times in 22 IPL matches, including the last five games and the last three at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. In the form RCB are in, only the bravest punter would place his money on the hosts turning it around.

The Royal Challengers would be hoping the talismanic AB de Villiers recovers from a viral fever that ruled him out of the previous game. RCB batting has been heavily dependent on the South African, who has also excelled against Mumbai Indians, having scored 511 runs in 19 matches, including a best of 133 not out.

Quinton de Kock and Brendon McCullum are slowly getting into their groove, Kohli has been imperious yet again while Mandeep Singh has shone through in whatever chances he has got. It’s the bowling that has let RCB down completely this season. Bereft of ideas and utterly pedestrian, especially in the crucial death overs, they’ve let teams rack up 200-plus scores on three occasions. Such was their dismal show against Chennai Super Kings, Kohli dubbed it “criminal”.

It’s shocking that despite having an intelligent spinner in Daniel Vettori as head coach and the recently- retired pacer Ashish Nehra as the bowling coach, RCB keep committing the same mistakes. Down on confidence, one wonders how they are going to pick themselves up as the league heads towards the business end.

Mumbai Indians, who suffered some agonising losses early on, are no strangers to turning things around in the second-half. Skipper Rohit Sharma is finding form at the right time while Hardik Pandya, following some tough words from coach Mahela Jayawardene, looks to have regained focus. New kid Mayank Markande and Krunal Pandya should love bowling on the Chinnaswamy surface that’s offering help for spinners.

Both MI and RCB are battling for survival and another sell-out crowd will bear witness to their slug-fest.

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RCB look to break MI stranglehold

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