Things were all hunky dory for the Royal Challengers till a couple of weeks ago, when they were sitting pretty at the top of the points table with six wins out of eight. However, a string of away games have knocked RCB off their perch as they’ve found life on the road, away from the comfort of the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, difficult. In their last four matches, all away from home, RCB have managed just one win — against the miserable Pune Warriors who anyone and everyone seems to be steamrolling.
RCB need at least another two wins from their remaining four matches to secure a playoffs berth. While Virat Kohli and Co do play their last two league games of the season at home and would bank themselves on winning there, they wouldn’t want to leave it so late, especially since the two matches are against fellow challengers for the playoffs, Kings XI Punjab, and the runaway favourites of the season, the Chennai Super Kings.
RCB have their last two successive away matches against teams that have been already knocked out of contention for the playoffs — the Delhi Daredevils and the Kolkata Knight Riders — which would give them their best chance to get some form back. First up are the Daredevils, who along with Pune are everyone’s favourite whipping boys. After losing big-hitters Kevin Pietersen to injury and Jesse Ryder ironically to a back-alley punch-up, the Daredevils were always going to be a poorer team compared to last season, but not many expected them to capitulate the way they have.
After succumbing to six straight defeats to start their season, the Daredevils fought back momentarily, beating the Mumbai, Pune and KKR, before being knocked down again by the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Rajasthan Royals. In their last game against the Royals, the Daredevils, in a bid to spruce things up, made six changes to their side, but still ended up getting thrashed by nine wickets. Nothing seems to be working for Mahela Jayawardene’s men, whose main concern and culprit have been the faltering top-order. Apart from David Warner, none of the Delhi batsmen have warranted a place in the side.
Jayawardene is averaging a poor 21.58 after playing all 12 of his team’s matches; Virender Sehwag has scored 236 runs in nine games, 95 of which came in DD’s win over Mumbai; Manprit Juneja, after so many expectations from the lad, has managed just 125 runs in seven matches, while Unmukt Chand’s average of 15.66 in six games is closer to his age than talent. Delhi mixed it up against Rajasthan, giving one of the leading run-getters in last season’s Ranji Trophy, CM Gautam, a chance but the experiment failed. Gautam would probably get another go-ahead against RCB and should look to grab it with both hands.
Even Delhi’s bowling has looked ordinary, with experienced guys like Morne Morkel, Ajit Agarkar and Ashish Nehra failing to inspire confidence in themselves, before rubbing off on the rest of the team. Umesh Yadav and Irfan Pathan have seemed the only bright lamps in the dark dungeons that Delhi find themselves in. Even though this season’s campaign is over except for academic reasons, DD have four matches to restore some pride and sign off on a high.
RCB, meanwhile, are likely to go in with the same combination that lost to Punjab, quite simply because it looks the strongest they have.
In their last encounter against the Daredevils, RCB sneaked through with a Super Over victory after the contest ended in a tie. In the head-to-head battle, Delhi have won five out of 10 meetings, with Bangalore winning four, not counting the aforementioned tie.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (Probable): Chris Gayle, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Saurabh Tiwary, Moises Henriques, Arun Karthik (wk), Vinay Kumar, Ravi Rampaul, Murali Kartik, RP Singh.
Time: 20.00 IST | 14.30 GMT
(Jaideep Vaidya is a multiple sports buff and a writer at CricketCountry. He has a B.E. in Electronics Engineering, but that isn’t fooling anybody. He started writing on sports during his engineering course and fell in love with it. The best day of his life came on April 24, 1998, when he witnessed birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar pummel a Shane Warne-speared Aussie attack from the stands during the Sharjah Cup Final. A diehard Manchester United fan, you can follow him on Twitter @jaideepvaidya. He also writes a sports blog - The Mullygrubber )