Mumbai: Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) will look to keep their unbeaten run in this year’s Indian Premier League intact when they face Rajasthan Royals at the Wankhede on Thursday.
Kohli’s team are the only undefeated side in the 2021 renewal and sit pretty at the top of the table with three wins in as many matches. Whatever RCB have achieved has been on a surface that should not have ideally played to their strengths and that can only mean more sting on a faster Wankhede track and particularly against an opposition that appears to have lost its way due to a slew of injured absentees and inconsistent performances from a number of their dependables.
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The absence of English duo Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes seems to have hurt the Royals ambitions so far. All-rounder Archer played significant knocks for the Royals last season and amassed 113 with the bat, while contributing 20 wickets in a performance that won him the tournament’s MVP award despite RR finishing bottom of the leaderboard.
Stokes scored 285 in eight innings last season. It included an unbeaten 107 last year as he went about his business averaging 40.71 and scoring at a rate of 142.5. Liam Livingstone too has pulled out citing bubble fatigue and these pullouts have left the Royals a severely depleted side.
Sanju Samson has the captaincy, but it seems to be a yoke that is weighing him down. Samson came close to pulling off a single-handed victory against PBKS in the opening match when chasing a stiff target of 222, but in the two games since then he’s scored a cumulative five for a total of 124. That kind of inconsistency is simply not good enough!
The same goes for Buttler, who has contributed just 76 so far and will have to play a big role here. Timely knocks from David Miller and Chris Morris ensured a laborious victory over Delhi Capitals, but otherwise none of the Royals batsmen have shown any kind of dependability and the odd one stepping up is not going to be good enough against RCB.
Bowling could be argued as being Royals’ stronger suit, with Chetan Sakariya and Morris accounting for 11 between them. Unadkat delivered a stifling 3/15 which set up victory against the Capitals, but against CSK in the last match he finished with a 0/40.
On the other hand, RCB have purple cap Harshal Patel in their ranks. Patel has taken nine scalps in three matches so far, including a best of 5/27 against defending champions Mumbai Indians. He has bowled consistently well with figures of 2/25 and 2/17 against Sunrisers Hyderabad and KKR thereafter.
Mohammad Siraj and Shahbaz Ahmed also stepped up their act against SRH with the latter producing a match best of 3/7 from three overs. Yuzvendra Chahal’s brand of spin against KKR worked well too as he claimed a 2/34. A supreme level of bowling and Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers’ solid contribution with the bat has helped RCB thrive. Maxwell is second on the batting chart with 176, while De Villiers is sixth with 125. Kohli got an identical 33 in the first two games, but couldn’t step into his groove against KKR, but with a batting friendly and pacier Wankhede wicket playing to his strengths, the RCB skipper is due to deliver his best performances in the tournament so far.
There’s no doubt that RCB are favourites going into this, but as far as the head-to-heads go, both have won 10 games apiece apart from three tied affairs. It won’t be easy for the Royals, but they can start with each man putting his hand up and being counted.