Dubai: Yuzvendra Chahal, the go-to man for Royal Challengers Bangalore for wickets, had answered to their prayers once again on Monday when he picked up three key wickets to shape their thrilling 10-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad. However, the main positives for the winners - to my mind - was the way debutant Devdutt Padikkal and Navdeep Saini came to the party.
One of the key reasons behind Challengers’ failure to end their jinx in the Indian Premier League (IPL) had been their over-reliance on the talismanic skipper Virat Kohli and the weakness of leaking runs at the death. While it’s still very early days, but one can see the promise of young Pallikal giving Kohli and AB de Villiers the liberty to give more muscle to their middle order while Saini can prove to be a handful to get away with his ability to hit the 140kmph-plus mark consistently, an unerring line and yorkers.
As the social media went agog with praise for the duo, there were a few snide remarks that it ultimately took a half-century from the Karnataka opener in IPL to come into the light - and it’s justified. His form had been one of the talking points in the 2019-20 domestic season when the calm-headed youngster shone bright in all forms of white ball cricket.
In the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Padikkal scored 609 runs at an average of 67.66 as Karnataka went on to lift the title. Those runs included two hundreds and five half-centuries as well. In the shortest format, the 20-year-old had been batting like a dream as he scored 580 runs at an average of 64.45 which includes five fifties and a ton. These runs have come at a strike-rate of 175.75 and explains the franchise’s decision to go for him in the auction.
Saini, who took two for 25, has been a part of India’s white ball set-up for an about an year now and should use this season to pick the great Dale Steyn’s brains to sharpen his armoury.
It was a lacklustre performance from the Sunrisers batsmen, with the exception of Jonny Bairstow and the experienced Manish Pandey. While skipper David Warner was unfortunate to be run out in that fashion, but you cannot expect him and Bairstow to deliver in match after match in such a long tournament. The think tank needs to find a way to bring in Kane Williamson immediately at the expense of Mohammad Nabi as the fourth foreigner.
He is too valuable a player to be sitting out when the middle order looks wafer thin on experience and ability.