It is perhaps a sign of the unpredictable nature of the Twenty20 game that a Royal Challengers Bangalore squad packed with superstars finds itself level on points with – and behind on run rate to – a Kings XI Punjab team that is arguably one of the weakest in IPL 5. Moving above their hosts in the fledgling IPL table will thus be Bangalore’s immediate aim as they face Punjab at Mohali on Friday.
Inconsistency has been the bane of the Bangalore side, who, on paper, have the batsmen to demolish any bowling attack. Pune Warriors, especially Ashish Nehra and Rahul Sharma, were at the receiving end in their previous game, as Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Saurabh Tiwary went on a rampage to end RCB’s three-match losing streak. If the three can keep up their form, and should Virat Kohli and Tillakaratne Dilshan also join the party, Kings XI Punjab are likely to stand no chance.
The bowlers, however, will also have to play their part. While the spinners in Daniel Vettori and Muttiah Muralitharan have curbed the runs and picked up the wickets, the pace attack with Zaheer Khan and Vinay Kumar – bought for $1million at the start of the season – has largely disappointed. Although the biggest worry for skipper Vettori has been his part-timers, with Kohli, Gayle and Dilshan all proving costly in previous matches when Chennai Super Kings chased down a 200-plus total and Rajasthan Royals posted a winning 195 for 2.
Still, Bangalore are unlikely to change their winning combination on Friday, which means the likes of Muralitharan, Dirk Nannes, Andrew McDonald, Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhimanyu Mithun and Mohammad Kaif will miss out again, though Mayank Agarwal – with 109 runs in 5 matches – will be under pressure to keep his place.
Punjab, meanwhile, have nowhere near the embarrassment of riches which their opponents can afford to leave on the bench and will sorely miss skipper Adam Gilchrist, who is ruled out after having pulled a hamstring in their defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday. With the Australian on the sidelines, countryman David Hussey will lead the side, while the little-known Nitin Saini – who otherwise plays for Haryana – may be drafted in to keep wickets.
Neither Gilchrist nor Hussey have yet made any significant contribution, however, and the only Punjab batsman to have managed even a half-century in the five matches so far has been Shaun Marsh. Indian batsmen Mandeep Singh and Paul Valthaty have also been dismal, and former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood, whose visa issues have been resolved, could be included to boost the middle order. The bowling, comprising of Dimitri Mascarenhas, Praveen Kumar, Harmeet Singh and Piyush Chawla, has fared better, but could struggle against Bangalore’s power-hitters.
Punjab still have two wins to their name – as many as Bangalore – though KKR will argue that one of those was a result of their incompetence as they failed to chase 135 at Eden Gardens. KXIP’s other success came at their home ground in Mohali against Pune Warriors, but the pitch was not much help on Wednesday against Kolkata as the hosts struggled to put up a big score and the visitors won by 8 wickets. So Bangalore will fancy their chances and hope to build on their previous win to gain some momentum. The table may show otherwise, but should RCB live up to their potential, their stay in the bottom half will not last for long.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Mayank Agarwal, 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 Virat Kohli, 6 Saurabh Tiwary, 7 Daniel Vettori (captain), 8 Vinay Kumar, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Harshal Patel, 11 KP Appanna
Kings XI Punjab: 1 Mandeep Singh, 2 Paul Valthaty, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 Paras Dogra, 5 David Hussey (captain), 6 Nitin Saini (wk), 7 Azhar Mahmood, 8 Dimitri Mascarenhas, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Harmeet Singh, 11 Piyush Chawla