The spate of defeat continues and Royal Challengers Bangalore now faces the unenviable task of having to win all the matches to stay in contention at the Indian Premier League (IPL), starting with the match against Delhi Capitals at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday.
After five losses in as many games, to expect the team to effect a turnaround seems a little far-fetched to the point of being foolish even if one were an eternal optimist. Even skipper Virat Kohli has put his hands up, stating the team deserves its place in the bottom of the table for the kind of performance it has been churning out.
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Even if the batting clicks, like it did against Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday when AB de Villiers and Kohli were on song, no amount of runs on the board is going to guarantee the Royal Challengers any success unless it improves its bowling and fielding.
The team’s seam bowling has been insipid and uninspiring in a dumbfounding manner, yorkers a missing entity in the bowlers’ arsenal in the death overs. The catching has been poor; there have been as many as eight dropped catches in just the last two games!
The team finally rested the underperforming Shimron Hetmyer and brought in pacer Tim Southee for the match against Knight Riders, but he bore the brunt of the Russell rampage in the previous match and was quite ineffective even otherwise.
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Despite all the struggles in the bowling department, it has been surprising to see Washington Sundar still warming the bench while the likes of Akshdeep Nath are being given a chance. Considering Delhi boasts of a top-heavy line-up dominated by Indians, it remains to be seen if Royal Challengers will try out the Tamil Nadu spinner or go for yet another trial of a medium pacer for change in fortunes. The team didn’t even go for the spin option of Moeen Ali in the previous match, so Washington may have to wait it out longer. Pawan Negi was effective and is likely to retain his place in the squad.
Delhi Capitals, Royal Challengers’ opponent, started with a resounding win against Mumbai Indians, but has since stuttered about with inconsistent shows for a tally of two wins and three losses. Rishabh Pant has a century under his belt, Prithvi Shaw a 99 in the match against Knight Riders; Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer have also contributed handsomely on various occasions.
It is a certainty that the Sunday’s match will also be a high-scoring affair, unless the curators go for a freshly rolled pitch that has a wee bit more grass than the pitch that has been in use in the last two matches at the Chinnaswamy stadium. There were enough indications of that being a possibility with the Karnataka State Cricket Association members, curator and groundsmen actively measuring, watering and assessing the adjacent pitch.
In terms of bowling, Capitals poses its faith in South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada and Ishant Sharma in the pace department. Rabada managed to restrict Knight Riders for seven runs in the Super Over for a morale-boosting win. Ishant, too, has been among wickets. Axar Patel and Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichchane offer variety in the spin department and Capitals certainly looks like the more balanced side.
Royal Challengers was slotted for optional practice on Saturday, but most of the players were in attendance at the nets. The team cannot rest; it is chasing the improbable now.
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