With just two victories from as many as nine matches, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) are seventh in the points table. Even if they go on to win their remaining five games, Virat Kohli’s side need several mathematical permutations to go their way and hence are likely to fall short of the qualification cut-off.
However, another defeat will officially bring their already slim hopes of sneaking into the playoffs to a premature end. They are slated to take on a resurgent Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) outfit at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium on Saturday evening. Needless to say, everything is at stake for the highly popular franchise from India’s Garden City.
This could be RCB’s playing eleven for the vital tussle against RPS.
Gayle’s indifferent run of form at the top of the order has been a major reason behind RCB’s struggling campaign. Age seems to have slowed the Caribbean giant’s explosive hand-eye co-ordination. Since there is not much depth in the overseas batting contingent, the left-hander’s place should be fairly assured even if he does not regain his touch.
The team’s disappointing performances appear to have had a profound impact on Kohli’s usually firm body language. Nevertheless, the skipper remains vital to their fortunes as he remains their most reliable batsman. It remains to be seen if the other members of the side pay heed to his calls of playing positive cricket and rise to the occasion.
AB de Villiers
Apart from a splendid knock against Kings XI Punjab, de Villiers has not done anything of note in this season. Considering his reputation as a dynamic cricketer and impressive track record in the previous editions of the tournament, the team management would want him to be at his best sooner rather than later. For his part, he might also have to sharpen the focus while running between the wickets.
With 206 runs from 8 matches, Jadhav is RCB’s leading run-scorer in the season thus far. However, he has managed just one fifty-plus score. Despite entering a tough situation, the 32-year-old was looking quite imposing during the previous game against Gujarat Lions until a risky shot ended his stay at the crease. Better application could help him maximise his potential.
Since Mandeep Singh has looked completely out of depth in the middle-order, the think tank may replace him with Harpreet Singh. The 25-year-old will be looking to put the recent travails of mistaken identity behind him and showcase his skills if he gets an opportunity to make a maiden appearance for RCB.
Even though he has played just three games so far, Travis Head could pay the price for RCB’s poor batting performance in the match against Gujarat. It will not come as a surprise if Shane Watson returns to the playing eleven at the expense of the left-hander who was out for a first-ball duck. The all-rounder’s immense experience might be a handy asset at a critical stage in the season.
One of the few bright spots from the previous game, Negi will be eager to build on his promising 19-ball 32 with another timely knock. As evidenced by an impressive economy rate of 6.87, the left-arm spinner has been a steady performer with the ball.
It appears as if leg-spinners only get better with age. 36-year-old Badree is undoubtedly RCB’s trump card in the bowling department. With another veteran Imran Tahir in the opposite camp, the contest presents an opportunity to witness some high-quality wrist-spin. While the South African possesses subtle variations to deceive the batsmen, Badree relies on his control instead.
Aravind has quietly gone about his job in this season. Capable of sending down different types of slower deliveries, he can be a handful on pitches which are sluggish in nature. However, the Pune surface is expected to be even paced and quite conducive for run-scoring. The left-armer has to find a way to make a mark in such conditions.
Aniket seems to be more suited for the game’s traditional format rather than the slam-bang white-ball affairs. From two games, he has gone at an expensive 12.66 runs per over. Time is running out for the Bikaner-born seamer as another dismal showing could force the team management to shift their gaze towards other options.
With 10 wickets from eight matches, Chahal is Royal Challengers’ leading wicket-taker in the tournament thus far. His ability to deliver breakthroughs at crucial moments of the game should hold him in good stead for the remaining matches of the season.