Virat Kohli, captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Eoin Morgan, captain of Kolkata Knight Riders. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

Dubai: Virat Kohli will be eager to end his reign as Royal Challengers Bangalore captain on a winning note. This is his last chance to land RCB’s first title in the Indian Premier League. Against this backdrop, RCB’s clash against Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi on Monday assumes significance.

The conditions are likely to favour Bangalore as there will be less lateral movement in the air, and bowlers will have to employ variations to cope with the slow pitches.

Kohli’s chances of claiming the elusive IPL trophy have been strengthened by some smart replacements to the Bangalore squad — the highest in terms of numbers for the UAE leg of the IPL. With 10 points from seven games, Bangalore will be keen to pile points quickly and seal the playoff berth.

Sri Lankan leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga and the six-foot pacer bowler Dushmantha Chameera have come in for Adam Zampa and Daniel Sams. All-rounder Washington Sundar, who is yet to recover from an injury suffered in England, will be missed on the UAE pitches, where his nagging line and length of his fast off-breaks could have kept the batsmen in check.

RCB’s rivals Kolkata Knight Riders can ill-afford any slip-ups. With just four points from seven games, the Eoin Morgan-led team need to win at least five of the seven remaining matches to have any realistic chance of keeping their hopes alive.

Morgan, Andre Russell, Dinesh Karthik and Sunil Narine can be matchwinners, but KKR have not clicked as a unit. Kolkata rely heavily on the first six powerplay overs, which will set the launchpad for the power-hitters. Shubman Gill’s return from injury should add to the batting depth.

KKR’s attack has depth and variety. Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Ben Cutting and Prasidh Krishna form the pace attack, while spin is secure in the hands of Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Shakib Al Hasan, Varun Chakravarthy and Harbhajan Singh. All eyes will be on the Tamil Nadu mystery spinner Chakravarthy, who has been picked in the Indian team for the Twenty20 World Cup.

Who will win today? If form is any indication, RCB should win with ease. But this is KKR’s chance to turn around their fortunes. Can they? We shall find out soon.