PREVIEW OF RCB VS KINGS XI PUNJAB

Bhash Mankad

If one were to wish to locate the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore, it would not be hard to pinpoint it on the Bangalore map. In the coming week, This stadium located in the heart of the city shall stand witness to either heartbreak  or great merriment for the RCB fans who have been starved off cricket for quite a while owing to a last minute tweak in the game schedule. Virat Kohli and his lads must however, be thanking their stars to the scheduling as their last 2 Must win matches are at home and at a venue where they have yet not lost a game this season. The sense of glee in the team members on their return to Bangalore shall almost be reminiscent of  a pack of 6th grade school kids returning home for their first vacation from boarding school. However, the team must be fully aware that they would have to arrest their freefall from the top of the table after a spate of losses in their away games, where they have looked a pale shadow of themselves as against the manner in which they played their home games at the start of the season. A loss to Punjab at home shall all but ensure a long vacation for the team who shall be left to cool their heels wondering how the wheels fell off at the business end of the tournament.

RCB’s opponents in this match are a team that has always looked promising to ensure a qualification spot for themselves in the midst of the tournament in almost all T20 seasons but their losses at the start of the season and inability to peak at the end have been the reasons that have orchestrated their downfall. Such has been the campaign of the Kings XI Punjab, that Their most boisterous fan this season, the 10 year old Shabad Sandhu aka Chotta Bheem who has been rooting for them in all their home matches would also have his spirits dampened as if the plate of freshly made Butter Chicken served to him is snatched away at the last minute leaving him only to smell the aroma. Punjab shall look to go for broke in this match knowing fully well that they now have nothing to lose and could spoil RCB’s party at the fag end of the tournament.
 
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Royal Challengers Bangalore 
 
The RCB fans find themselves in a spot which is not unfamiliar to what they find themselves in when they follow the Indian team in multi national tournaments. It is said that Aryabhatta invented the zero and  thereafter Ramanujan is credited with ensuring Indian Mathematicians were almost revered on the world stage. Such has been the proclivity of Indian cricket  teams to ensure that this tradition is continued that Indian fans are almost always working out complex mathematical equations on how their team would qualify for the semi final stages in multi national tournaments. The eerie similarities between the RCB’s lineup and that of the Indian teams does not merely end here. If one were to dwell deeper and analyze RCB’s performance, the overwhelming dependence on their top four batsmen to deliver for their non performing bowlers is also painfully similar to how Indian teams have traditionally depended on their batsmen to cushion for  bad bowling. To be fair to Virat Kohli, he has made no bones about this fact in his post match interviews and did not exculpate himself from the fact that his dropping a sitter of Miller the last time these two sides met was the game changer. RCB shall  also have to drastically improve their fielding standards which has cost them important games, as was evident, when Abhimanyu Mithun’s misjudgment of what was an easy catch of Jacques Kallis in their last match at a crucial stage in the game ensured a paradigm shift in the momentum of the match towards KKR. Such have been the frequency of blunders by RCB in the field that Virat Kohli has been at a loss of expletives to use from his rich vocabulary towards his fielders when they have churned out one blooper after another. RCB shall also have to look to probably tinker with their middle order and bring Mayank Agarwal in for Saurabh Tiwary who has under whelmed a great deal by his performances in the league and given his team owner a bigger headache than the staff of his now defunct airline. Dr. Mallya must be thinking that it would have been a better bet had he paid the outstanding salary of his airline staff than invest his millions in buying Saurabh Tiwary who is probably guilty of under achieving the most this season vis a vis the price that the team had bought him for.
 
 
X Factor : Chris Gayle. Gayle looked anything but himself in the last match against KKR as he laboured to a 36 ball 33 on a slow and low Ranchi pitch. Witnessing him batting must have made one feel as if the co owner of  KKR in absentia hypnotized him or fiddled with his I POD to play the famous "Haule Haule" song of one of his movies and it looked like Gayle had memorized the lyrics to the hilt whilst he was on the crease. Gayle shall know that his team and the legion of fans at the Chinnaswamy shall be praying that he returns to form again on pitch that is vastly different from the track at Ranchi as even a 10 over stay at the crease by him can ensure a total nearing 200 as  the RCB  are lucky to have the best finisher in the modern game in the form of AB De Villiers. Gayle has enjoyed a great deal of success at Bangalore and would be itching to return to his old ways and thereby contribute to his team’s success when they need him  the most.

Kings XI Punjab
 
Punjab will take heart from the fact that their most memorable victory this season came when the last time these 2 teams met at Mohali, thanks to a David Miller special who summed up his knock beautifully saying that he just followed his father’s simple advice," If its in the V, it goes in the tree; if its in the arc it goes out of the park." Adam Gilchrist and his wards would now be playing without the pressure of qualifying and therefore, would look to simplify their game plan by looking to target the RCB bowlers who are undoubtedly the weaker link of their opponents. Punjab would be looking to win the toss and bat first to pile up the pressure of runs on the RCB on a track which promises a run fest. Punjab would also know that that even the famed batting line up of the RCB may falter from the sheer weight of runs  in what is a do or die encounter for them. The Achilles heel of Punjab this tournament has been the fact that at no point of time have two of their batsman got going in tandem and therefore they haven’t been able to pile up the big scores that they have threatened to put up on the board. With the sole exception of R Satish, their Indian batsmen have been very disappointing to say the least. Moreover, the fact that Shaun Marsh was injured in the initial stages of the tournament and David Miller being brought in as a late addition to the side haven’t helped Punjab’s cause. Punjab’s bowlers have also had the propensity to leak runs in the last five overs of the match that has ensured that opposing teams have been able to conjure up the additional 20-30 odd runs which are so critical in T20 Cricket. 
 
 
X Factor : David Miller. Its difficult to look beyond him as his century of 37 balls at Mohali against RCB was arguably the best knock in a chase in the history of the league. Since then, he has been dismissed for two single digit scores in what were crunch matches for his team and this must have surely frustrated him. Miller being a south paw would be hoping to emulate the likes of  Sanath Jayasuriya and Saeed Anwar and evoke their memories in the minds of the quartet of Indian bowlers of the RCB . Miller shall try and be a thorn in the flesh for the RCB as he would be looking to end this memorable season for him on a high note.

Prediction

First things first. There could well be a touch of Irony in the fact that the Wankhede Crowd might just witness Virat Kohli, the man that they booed not long ago in the stands cheering and jeering for the Mumbai Indians as they take on the Sunrisers today in a clash that Kohli shall be eyeing with great interest. A win for Sunrisers will add that extra burden on Kohli’s team to not only win but win well against Punjab in the event that both teams are locked on the same points and it may well come down to net Run rate.
 
 
Punjab have nothing to play for except widening the dimple on Preity Zinta’s cheeks and this alone may not be motivation enough for them to pull off an upset against RCB who shall be desperately baying for revenge with a sea of Red descending on the Chinnaswamy firmly behind them. As the RCB return to a track which has been arguably the best batting pitch of the tournament, they shall realize that they have no option but to look to maintain their winning ways at home and knock the wind out off the sails of the Punjab bowlers in what promises to be a slugfest. 
 

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