RCB, RR lock horns in a must-win match

Both teams need to win to stay in the tournament, a task RCB better-equipped to accomplish, given its recent spurt of victories. But Rajasthan boasts of a decent home performance of four wins in six matches. Kohli and de Villiers would be the ones to contend with.

Ajinkya Rahane at a practice session in Jaipur on Friday.   -  PTI

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) firmly, and rightly too, believes it has arrived in this edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Having stuttered in the first half of the tournament, the Virat Kohli-led team can back itself to make it to the playoffs. Of course, RCB has to win its final game against Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium here on Friday.

Form and strength give RCB the advantage. It suffered five losses in the first seven matches before recovering remarkably in the last six, winning four of them, the last three in succession. An eternal aspirant, RCB is yet to win the crown despite some awesome talent, especially the explosive batting skills of AB de Villiers and Kohli. For reasons best known to the management, RCB has toiled to forge a combination that matches its riches.

 

Kohli (526 runs) and de Villiers (427 runs) have sustained the RCB batting strength even though the former has spoken highly of the bowling department. If only the bowlers had the support of a decent fielding outfit. Kohli’s overwhelming faith in Mohammed Siraj is clearly backed by bowling coach Ashish Nehra’s emphasis on giving the individual a long run. It is a policy that Kohli too has pursued when leading the Indian team. Siraj has made steady progress in the company of fast bowler Umesh Yadav and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.

 

It will, like always, depend on Kohli and de Villiers giving the opponents the charge. For someone like de Villiers field-placements hardly matter. He is part of the class, comprising Chris Gayle, Kane Williamson, Jos Buttler, Kohli and KL Rahul, which can decimate the challenge from any field set for them. They all have two shots for every delivery. When they are on a song, they can add another innovative stroke that enhances their craft at the crease.

It is to RCB’s immense advantage that Rajasthan has lost the services of Buttler and Ben Stokes for this key match, both having earned an England call-up for the home series against Pakistan. Stokes may not have been at his best but his presence was an inspiration for the team, which has travelled well in this tournament on the shoulders of Buttler, who displayed splendid form with five back-to-back half centuries, and Sanju Samson, the most improved Rajasthan run-getter this season.

Both teams need to win to stay in the tournament, a task RCB better-equipped to accomplish, given its recent spurt of victories. But Rajasthan boasts of a decent home performance of four wins in six matches. Kohli and de Villiers would be the ones to contend with.