With the overseas trio of AB de Villiers, Samuel Badree and Tymal Mills likely to be available for selection, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have received a major boost ahead of the game. Even though they have pulled their campaign back on track following a victory against Gujarat Lions, Virat Kohli’s team desperately need to continue their winning ways to harbour hopes of reaching the play-offs.
Their task is easier said than done. Squaring up against them will be the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) who are quite formidable at their home base in Eden Gardens. Despite suffering a reversal against the Lions, Gautam Gambhir’s men will be quietly confident of their chances this time around.
Here are five factors that could go a long way in influencing the contest.
#5 With the bat
Led by the ever reliable Virat Kohli, RCB’s batting lineup is an imposing one on paper. With Chris Gayle showing signs of returning to his marauding form, they will be eager to make a strong statement against the Knight Riders. AB de Villiers is set to take the place of Travis Head. It should be hard to find a more explosive top three if all of them are able to fire simultaneously.
KKR’s fortunes in the batting department will depend a lot on the likes of Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey. If they manage to set a solid foundation, the lower middle-order featuring Yusuf Pathan and company can do significant damage in the end overs.
#4 With the ball
Kolkata have a nice mix of pace and spin options in their arsenal. Umesh Yadav and Chris Woakes could be joined by New Zealand’s Trent Boult after Nathan Coulter-Nile’s forgettable outing against Gujarat. Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav have formed a dangerous spin combination. Aided by a round-arm action, Shakib Al Hasan completes a dynamic bowling attack.
RCB will rely on the returning leg-spinner Badree to provide them with early wickets. With his accurate lines, Yuzvendra Chahal can take control of the middle-overs. While Sreenath Aravind adds variety to the pace department, it remains to be seen if the team management retain the rapid Adam Milne or bring back Mills.
The Knight Riders have formed an unexpected opening pairing with Narine’s aggression proving to be a perfect foil for Gambhir’s consistency. Fresh from a boundary-ridden 42 against Gujarat, the 28-year-old Caribbean cricketer will be raring to have a go at RCB’s bowling unit. It will be interesting to see the type of tactics he adopts against the wily Badree.
In RCB’s previous game, skipper Kohli opened the bowling with spin from both ends. The combination of pace from one end and spin at the other should serve them well against the two opening batsmen who differ from each other.
#2 Pitch and Conditions
With a long and illustrious history behind it, the Eden Gardens is one of the most iconic venues in world cricket. The crowd are known to come out in droves and vociferously support the Knight Riders. As their opponents contain quite a few eye-catching players, expect another packed house.
Three matches have taken place at the venue in this IPL season thus far. Five out of six scores have been above 170 suggesting a batting-friendly track. Pacers are getting more out of the pitch than their spin counterparts. In all likelihood, this match could continue the trend. All eyes will be on RCB skipper Kohli who has a strong track record in T20 games at this stadium.
#1 Possible pitfalls
Even though they contain some of the best in the business, RCB’s batting lineup still appears to be slightly top-heavy. As always, the onus will be on Kedar Jadhav to further the progress made in the first half of the innings. The team management have a conundrum of sorts regarding the batting position of Mandeep Singh. A top-order player by default, he has had to bat lower down the order due to lack of available positions.
For the Knight Riders, the form of their spinners might be a bit of a concern after all three went at more than eight runs per over. If the pacers do not land the early breakthroughs, the well-set batsmen from RCB’s power-packed top three can take a liking to the slow bowlers.