The last time Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) met Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), its spinners in Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy had left Faf du Plessis and his men in a daze.
The massive 81-run victory at the Eden Gardens set the tone for KKR’s campaign, and drowned out all the chatter about RCB’s title credentials after the rousing win over Mumbai Indians in the opener.
Halfway into the season, when the two clash again, this time at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday, it feels like a whole new world.
KKR has lost four in a row and is now eighth in the table. RCB has found ways to win – three of its last four games – despite not exuding the vibes of a trophy-contender.
KKR’s problems are manifold. Its batters have repeatedly been pegged back in the PowerPlay while frontline bowlers in Narine and Umesh Yadav have gone wicketless in the last four and six matches respectively.
Maverick Andre Russell is yet to explode and while there have been notable performances from the likes of Rinku Singh, Venkatesh Iyer, Jason Roy and skipper Nitish Rana, they have only played solo.
“We just have to keep pushing hard and keep enjoying ourselves,” said Roy, on match-eve. “It’s very easy in short-format cricket to lose a lot of confidence. So we are trying to keep it high and make sure our methods don’t change too much.
“But as individuals we have to improve and see how we can impact the game in a better way. We have had some good individual performances which is a positive. But a loss is a loss. We have to draw that line in the sand now with half the season done. We just have to push forward.”
For RCB, it will be important for the middle-order to fire when given the opportunity. The top-three of Virat Kohli, du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell have scored the bulk of the runs in what seems like a throwback to the times when Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers dominated. But the team will be better served by not being so reliant on the top-order.
“Last year our top-order struggled but the rest of the batters were exceptional... the likes Shahbaz [Ahmed], DK [Dinesh Karthik] and [Mahipal] Lomror.,” Mike Hesson, RCB’s Director of Cricket Operations, said.
“This year we have played five games at home and here our top-order is always going to do well. They have not just scored the bulk of the runs but they have had the biggest opportunities to do so. As the tournament unfolds and we get away from Chinnaswamy, the middle-order will get more opportunities and we have a lot of confidence in them.
“We have to start better than we did in the last game against KKR. We weren’t as good with the ball and obviously how we play KKR through the middle overs is going to be important as well. So we will focus on that rather than the potential state of mind they may be in [after four successive losses].”
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