RCB v RPS Preview: Stage set for Kohli v Smith show

The RCB-RPS encounter will see Kohli and Smith share the field for the first time since the tense India-Australia Test series.

RCB players Travis Head and Shane Watson during a practice session ahead of the IPL match against Rising Pune Supergaint, at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

In seasons past, the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium was hailed as a batsman’s paradise. Small boundaries, flat pitches and a quick outfield produced massive totals and big knocks.

However, runs have not come at a rapid rate in the two matches played at the venue this year. Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) successfully defended a 158-run target in the first encounter, while a total of 142 for five was not enough to keep Mumbai Indians in check. The away numbers — RCB has made 172 and 148 for four in its allotted 20 overs — are not pleasing either.

When RCB takes the field against Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) here on Sunday, the home team will look to reverse this trend. Skipper Virat Kohli, who returned from injury with a fluent 62 against Mumbai, holds the key. The misfiring batting line-up will hope that South African A. B. de Villiers — who made an electrifying unbeaten 89 off 46 balls against Kings XI Punjab a few days ago — produces another gem.

Virat Kohli, who returned from injury with a fluent 62 against Mumbai Indians, holds the key for Royal Challengers Bangalore.   -  AP

 

Trent Woodhill, RCB's batting and fielding coach, laid the onus on his team’s star batsmen. “There weren’t massive totals in these two home matches, so it was down to some poor batting from both sides. With regard to the 200-run totals that we normally associate with the Chinnaswamy track, I think we’ve had solid batting pitches without the exceptional ones that we’re used to. Having Virat Kohli and AB back is great, and we need to quickly build on their presence,” he said on Saturday.

Woodhill added that it is vital for the batters to stick around and get the job done. “If somebody gets in, that guy has to go on. Kieron Pollard did that for Mumbai yesterday, and somebody will hopefully play the same role for RCB tomorrow,” he said.

Dhoni’s form a worry

Much like RCB, Pune is yet to hit full tilt. The unit has recorded just the one win in four matches so far, and enters this outing on the back of a seven-wicket loss to Gujarat Lions. Skipper Steven Smith has led from the front, with scores of unbeaten 84, 26 and 43. The form of his predecessor, M. S. Dhoni, however, is a cause for worry. The normally reliable Dhoni has managed only 33 runs in four innings, and Pune fans will hope that this is but a minor blip.

The encounter will also see Kohli and Smith share the field for the first time since the tense India-Australia Test series. At the end of that hard-fought tour, less than a month ago, Kohli had famously remarked that he no longer considered Smith and his Australian team-mates as his friends.

The stage is set for a weekend spectacle.