Dropped to the fifth position from third in the points table, Royal Challengers Bangalore would look to return to winning ways against Kings XI Punjab to brighten up their play-off chances in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League. Despite being a stronger team on paper, RCB have not won a game since April 23, and with IPL coming to the business end of the season, both the teams very well know that they can't afford a loss here if they want to qualify in the top four.
It has been a mixed outing for RCB so far in the tournament - winning four games and losing as many from nine outings, with one match against Chennai Super Kings being washed out. The Indian trio of Virat Kohli, Saurabh Tiwary and Mayank Agarwal have underperformed in the season so far and it's high time they get back to scoring ways. On the other hand RCB's foreign recruits Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and to some extent Tillakartane Dilshan have played stellar roles in the victories and will have to take most of the responsibility once again against Punjab.
In the bowling department, pacers Zaheer Khan has impressed in patches and Vinay Kumar and Harshal Patel have been expensive of late. Spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan did well in almost all the games he played, but in the past few matches, he has been benched. So it can't be ruled out that the RCB skipper Daniel Vettori may leave himself out to accommodate the Sri Lankan, who can address the team's woes. Young left-arm spinner KP Appanna, who fashioned a win against Rajasthan Royal by claiming 4for 19 runs, has impressed with his maturity and is expected to keep his place to bowl alongside Murali or Vettori.
On the other hand, Kings XI Punjab are slowly and steadily finding their form after a slow start in the tournament. Punjab will hope that Adam Gilchrist gets fit and takes his place in playing XI after missing the last four games with a hamstring injury. But despite Gilchrist's absence, the team has done well under David Hussey. If Gilchrist is available for the game, David Miller is the one likely to make way for the captain cum mentor.
Shaun Marsh has been Punjab's best batsman so far, scoring 258 runs from nine innings. Besides Marsh, Hussey has also been amongst the runs. He has so far notched up 218 runs in eight outings. Young Mandeep Singh, who has 234 runs under his belt, would also like to carry on his good showing up the order against the RCB. But a word must be reserved for the former Pakistan allrounder Azhar Mahmood who has instilled the killer instinct in the team ever since his arrival. Fair to say, he has to be credited the most for Punjab's revival, both with the bat and with the ball.
On the bowling front, Piyush Chawla has been the pick of the bowlers with 11 wickets in nine matches, with Parwinder Awana's pace and Mahmood's variation giving a new dimension to the Punjab attack. Though Praveen Kumar has struggled so far in the season, it's a matter of time before he makes his presence felt.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Tillakartane Dilshan, 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Mayank Agarwal, 6 Saurabh Tiwary, 7 Daniel Vettori/Muttiah Muralitharan, 8 Zaheer Khan, 9 Vinay Kumar, 10 Harshal Patel, 11 KP Appanna
Kings XI Punjab: 1 Mandeep Singh, 2 Nitin Saini, 3 Shaun Marsh, 4 David Hussey, 5 Azhar Mahmood, 6 Bipul Sharma. 7 David Miller/Adam Gilchrist, 8 Piyush Chawla, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Parwinder Awana, 11. Bhargav Bhatt