IPL 2022: Chennai face tough test against red-hot RCB

What's making the difference for RCB is that their old and new players have delivered, writes Ayaz Memon



Virat Kohli is not living in the past, and has already played a couple of important knocks that have inspired the team to victory
Virat Kohli is not living in the past, and has already played a couple of important knocks that have inspired the team to victory

By Ayaz Memon

Published: Tue 12 Apr 2022, 12:41 AM

Going by current form, Royal Challengers Bangalore start firm favourites in this South Indian Derby against the Chennai Super Kings. Beaten by Punjab Kings in their opening match despite scoring 205, RCB’s recovery thereafter has been swift and smart. Three wins on the trot have put them in fourth place on the points table behind Rajasthan Royals, Kolkata Knight Riders, Gujarat Titans and above Lucknow Super Giants.

Only a minor difference in Net Run Rate separates these five teams.

We can now expect a great deal of volatility in the points table going ahead as each team strive to finish in the top four and qualify for the playoffs.

Which teams make the cut will depend on sustaining form and motivation over an extended period. From past seasons, there are enough examples of frontrunners falling by the wayside as the tournament progressed, unable to maintain the winning tempo.

Among these, and perhaps most notorious, have been RCB. Despite having some of the best T20 talent on their roster, the franchise has failed to live up to the hype and expectations for 14 years and still seeking a maiden title.

It would be presumptuous to believe they will win it this year. But RCB’s performances so far have sparked off strong hope yet again.

This is based not just in the fact of winning three out of four matches, but the manner in which the team have overcome tough situations, with diligence and determination.

With 10 teams in the tournament this year, all having undergone major changes in personnel or playing with an entirely new set, it’s not been easy for any side. But clearly those that have settled in quickly have performed better while others, like CSK, have struggled.

Four successive defeats reflect the haplessness of the defending champions this season.

What’s making the difference for RCB is that their old and new players have delivered. Young opener Anuj Rawat, in a tough game against the Mumbai Indians, was magnificent. Shahbaz Ahmad also showed great skills and temperament when RCB were in a crisis against Rajasthan.

Faf du Plessis has not only looked solid at the top, but also stamped his authority as captain. Former captain Virat Kohli is not living in the past, and has already played a couple of important knocks that have inspired the team to victory.

And Dinesh Karthik has been brilliant, displaying his finishing skills with the bat and sharpness behind the stumps.

The bowling has looked extremely good too after the disastrous opening match when RCB failed to defend 205.

Harshal Patel is possibly the best Indian fast bowler in the T20 format after Jasprit Bumrah. Mohammed Siraj has been expensive, but always probing, and David Willey’s ability to swing the new ball late has been well utilised by Du Plessis.

Hasaranga’s controlled and skilful leg breaks and googlies have earned him and the team rich rewards.

Such has been RCB’s performance that Glenn Maxwell, who didn’t play in the first three matches, and Josh Hazlewood, who is yet to make an appearance, were hardly missed.

While RCB’s strengths have been evident, CSK’s weaknesses have been painful for their fans. There hasn’t been one noteworthy performance, with bat or ball, so far. On the contrary, CSK have looked inept, confused and clueless. In this state, it will not be easy to get the better of RCB — even though they are likely to miss bowling mainstay Patel because of a family bereavement.

To turn things around, it will require fierce ambition and strict regimentation of resources. Time’s running out for the defending champions.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator


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