RCB, GL hope to resolve opening woes

Both Gujarat Lions and Royal Challengers Bangalore have struggled to find an ideal opening combination this season. The team that manages to set a platform for their big-hitters down the order is most likely to succeed in Rajkot.

Brendon McCullum (left) and Dwayne Smith put on a 94-run opening stand against Rising Pune Supergiant in Rajkot.   -  PTI

Well begun is half done. But the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and the Gujarat Lions (GL), in the early stage of the 10th Indian Premier League, have stumbled.

No wonder then that the two teams who featured in the play-offs last year are languishing at the bottom of the points table ahead of their face-off at the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) stadium on the outskirts of the Kathiawari epicentre.

Following Sunday's defeats, neither Virat Kohli's RCB nor Suresh Raina's GL trained at the SCA stadium on Monday.

Both the teams' think-tanks would hope that their openers would give them a good start.

RCB, plagued by a plethora of injuries, has gone in with a different set of openers in each of its five matches so far. Kohli and Chris Gayle was the Challengers's tried and tested combo. But Kohli missed the first three games due to a shoulder injury while Gayle's form has been as patchy as his fitness.

Only once have the Challengers' openers batted through the Powerplay. The lack of a set opening combination is a clear indication of an unsettled team in any format of the game.

The Lions may not have used as many opening combinations as the Bengalureans. But Raina's sergeants, too, have been searching for a perfect partner for Brendon McCullum. The Kiwi marauder's effective association with Dwayne Smith at the top was one of the highlights of the Lions' debut season.

However, with the addition of England's Jason Roy this season, the Lions, in the first two games, asked him to open with McCullum. After mediocre results, they reverted to Smith-McCullum against Rising Pune Supergiant here on Friday. The move clicked as the duo's 94-run stand off 53 balls set up the Lions' only win of the season so far. It would be interesting to see if Raina and coach Brad Hodge stick with the same combination against a dangerous RCB outfit.

The openers of both teams, in order to improve their teams' standing, must get off the blocks and set a platform for big-hitters down the order. The team that manages it will most likely have a reason to smile at the end of the match.