Flashback to Sunrisers’ batting star David Warner’s premature celebrations at the long-off boundary line after pouching Virat Kohli. He had his ‘Lagaan’ moment, stepped onto the line, gave six, and watched as Sunrisers collapsed into an exit just before the Qualifiers – a stage they were assured to reach only two games ago, before their final losses and early exit once again.
This moment will forever haunt Warner, who went into a phase of indifferent form over the last few months, but will lead the talented Sunrisers squad in the 2016 season. His counterpart, Virat Kohli, seems to be commanding a different kind of stature and persona every season – and this will be his ultimate test as a leader, with RCB being only one of three teams to have never won the league. They reached the 2009 finals in South Africa, losing to the then Deccan Chargers team led by Adam Gilchrist.
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
You’d think any team with Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Virat Kohli and AB deVilliers headlining the top order of a batting lineup wouldn’t even be mentioned in the “contender” conversations – surely, they’d gain direct entry into the knockouts because of the sheer blinding awesomeness of these superstar selections. But rub your eyes and think again.
Earlier, it was T. Dilshan, now it’s Watson – but the terrific trio hasn’t been able to push RCB to the brink of glory in their four seasons together. They even had Mitchell Starc cleaning up young traumatized batsmen on the back of World Cup glory last year, but somehow, as always, this team just never went all the way. They lose out on the crucial moments, and will want to make things right this year. The league ‘Galacticos’, as they are known, will try to brush off the unavailability of Starc, and the injury to their lead spinner Samuel Badree. The familiar local likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Parvez Rasool and Iqbal Abdulla will have to lead the lambs to slaughter on the infamous flat batting pitch of the Chinnaswamy stadium. They don’t have much to offer by way of bowling – Kane Richardson, Abu Nechim, Sreenath Aravind, Harshal Patel, Stuart Binny, Watson himself and David Weise. It will be RCB’s batting v/s the rest of the world’s bowling and batting, no doubt about that. Except for tearaway fast Adam Milne, they don’t really have a stump-uprooting seamer who can strike fear in the hearts of opposition batsmen.
WATCH OUT FOR:
Young guns Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan (who has since grown into an U-19 legend) and the resourceful keeper-batsman Lokesh Rahul, who will form the middle order and wield their batons in the highly unlikely scenario of all the top four failing with the bat.
They have problems. David Warner hasn’t been in the best of form, thanks to the Australian management’s harebrained strategy of moving him away from his prized opening spot. Shikhar Dhawan was recently dropped from the Indian T20 squad too. And they will be opening the batting here, unless they decide to go left-field with the talented Naman Ojha or Kiwi captain Kane Williamson at the top. With Yuvraj Singh out for a couple of weeks, and even English captain Eoin Morgan in sorry form, it will be up to Warner, 2015 star Deepak Hooda, all-around man Moises Henriques, Mumbai export Aditya Tare, Kolkata Knight Riders export T. Suman to shore up with the bat.
The Sunrisers will be happy with their assortment of bowlers though: Bangladeshi star Mustafizur Rahman, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Trent Boult (who is aching to bowl after being passed over in the World T20), leg-spinner Karn Sharma, seamer Barinder Sran, the ever-experienced Ashish Nehra and Abhimanyu Mithun. The Sunrisers have always had a fairly strong bowling line-up, but they will miss the services of ex-star Amit Mishra, who now plays for the doomed Delhi Daredevils.
WATCH OUT FOR:
Mustafizur Rahman, the wily left-armer, the next big thing in international cricket, fresh from a 5-for in the World T20, and back from injury to be one of two or three Bangladeshi internationals to be offered a league contract.
One can’t see past the broad bats of Gayle and Kohli on this small ground, but one expects the Sunrisers to come at their rivals hard. Bangalore for the win, if only just, in a hopefully high-scoring match to counter the tepid bowler-friendly start to the league.