RCB seeks to stem slide against confident KKR

After having failed to defend big scores, Royal Challengers Bangalore finds itself second from bottom in the IPL points table, a position it looks to lift itself from when it takes on a confident KKR at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore bowling needs sorting, admits captain Virat Kohli.   -  K. V. S. Giri

It has been a difficult fortnight for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Four games away from home have produced one win, leaving the team with four points from six. All along, the bowling has caused Virat Kohli headaches; it is a familiar problem, and one on which he has tried a number of things to fix. After failing to defend 191, 170 and 180, RCB batted second for the first time this IPL season on Saturday, but conceded too many runs to chase. Not one of the 12 bowlers used so far this season averages fewer than eight runs an over; five of them have gone at over 10.

It is an issue Kohli will continue to grapple with as his men return to the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here, for a meeting with Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday. Even with victory, RCB can climb no higher than sixth on the table; defeat will turn this torpid start into a bit of a crisis.

RCB has tinkered much with the XI — four more changes against Sunrisers — trying in vain to find the right combination. In Hyderabad, Chris Gayle, although available for selection, was overlooked. He could, presumably, have only been accommodated at Kane Richardson's expense and the bowling unit could not afford that. England's Chris Jordan, who has built a reputation as a reliable bowler of yorkers at the death, now arrives as Mitchell Starc's replacement. He may well feature on Monday.

“I'm not too worried about the batting,” Kohli admitted after the Sunrisers game. “It's the bowling we need to get better at.”

Better placed

KKR, for its part, does not have much to fret over, Saturday's loss to Delhi Daredevils notwithstanding. It sits third on the table, and has the opportunity to move up one place here. The team has sorely missed Manish Pandey, who is recovering from chicken pox. In the three games he has not played, KKR has tried Suryakumar Yadav, Shakib Al Hasan, and Piyush Chawla at one drop.

Robin Uthappa admitted in Delhi that Pandey's absence had forced some reshuffling in the batting order and that his return to number three would restore stability. There was a chance that Pandey, who is here having flown home to recuperate, could play on Monday, Uthappa said, although it was not certain.

Uthappa himself was in good form at the Kotla. Gautam Gambhir and he account for over half of the runs KKR's batsmen have scored, but whilst the team wins, this over-reliance will not matter. At the halfway stage, KKR will feel it is well placed to qualify for the play-offs. RCB, though, will need to sort things out quickly.

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