Dubai: Talk of the proverbial clash of the titans in Indian Premier League, and one doesn’t need to say anything more to it’s followers. Yes, it will be Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli going out to toss on Monday when champions Mumbai Indians play their first ‘away’ game against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Dubai International Stadium.
The two larger-than-life figures in contemporary cricket, not to speak of the IPL, have cast their influence in no uncertain terms - though his team’s exceptional record keeps Rohit Sharma a notch ahead of the Indian captain. Kohli is currently the leading rungetter in the history of the league with 5412 runs while Rohit is in third position after Suresh Raina at 4898 runs.
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While there will be certain brownie points at stake if their race for highest scorer further hots up, but there are no prizes for guessing that Kohli will be more keen to end the RCB’s 12-year itch by putting their name on the glittering trophy for the first time. And there could be no better launching pad than by getting a headstart by winning the marquee clash on Monday.
The Mumbai Paltan, who enjoy a 18-9 advantage in head-to-head clashes, got their act together quickly in the second game when they were back to their clinical self in their win against Kolkata Knight Riders in the battle of the two Abu Dhabi-based outfits four days back. They will be having their first look at the Dubai wicket on the matchday itself - though an identical gameplan seems to be the norm in both the UAE capital and here.
Asked if the dew factor has been determining the captains’ choice at the toss, Zaheer Khan, Director of Cricket Operations of MI felt it has not made as much of an impact so far. ‘‘It has not had that kind of impact as the matches are starting early here. However, bowlers are now experienced and taking the usual preparation like putting water on the seam of the ball and make it difficult to grip it,’’ Zaheer said to a media query.
After registering a thin win over Sunrisers Hyderabad in their first outing, Royal Challengers Bangalore suffered an embarrassing loss at the hands of Kings XI Punjab in their second fixture when they were swept off their feet by the classy innings of 132 by KL Rahul. More than the defeat, the worrying factor for Kohli would be that their familiar failings were threatening to come back to haunt them.
The death bowling woes stood out badly as their fast bowling trio of Dale Steyn, Umesh Yadav and Navdeep Saini together leaked 129 runs in all - while it once again fell on Yuzvendra Chahal’s shoulders to make an impact on the rival batsmen.
Kohli did not have a good day on the field - including with the bat - while overseas stars Aaron Finch, Joshua Philipe and AB de Villiers could not make any difference with their batting. There are options of bringing in the experienced wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel in place of the young Josh Philippe while the other one is that of using the overseas players’ quota of bringing in Moeen Ali in place of Finch.
English allrounder Moeen was one of the biggest positives for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the last season. The left-handed batsman scored 220 runs in 11 matches at a strike rate of 165.41, which means he could solve RCB’s middle-order problems by backing Kohli and AB at No.5.
Asked if Mumbai would like to use this opportunity to put pressure on a regroupind RCB, Zaheer said: ‘‘We prepare for each match to our own strengths. In this format, any team can win on a given day and you have be on the top of your game.’’
Catch the match
Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Mumbai Indians
Venue: Dubai International Stadium
Start: 6 pm UAE
Live telecast on Bein Sports