IPL 2021: RCB hoping to earn two shots at elusive title
The team's performance in the last two matches of the league phase will decide whether they can earn two shots at the title
This is turning out to be a roaring season for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Having qualified for the playoffs with an impressive win over Punjab Kings, Virat Kohli and his team are seeking greater gratification and a place in the top two.
This makes Wednesday’s match against Sunrisers Hyderabad vitally important.
Never having won the IPL title, the pressure on RCB — and especially Kohli — has been mounting every season. Before the second phase began in UAE, Kohli announced that this would be his last season as captain for the franchise. This could leave one major ambition unfulfilled for the master batsman if RCB don’t win the title this time too.
Kohli is sparing no effort this season to correct this aberration. So far things have gone extremely well for RCB. There was a stutter at the start of the second phase when they lost two matches on the trot before turning the corner and winning three in a row to reach the playoffs.
The team’s performance in the last two matches of the league phase will decide whether they can earn two shots at the elusive title. RCB will be optimistic that the rivals in the second last match are bottom-of-table SRH who are coming here after yet another demoralising performance against Kolkata Knight Riders.
What’s worked so far for RCB is good all-round form, and within this, stellar roles played by Glenn Maxwell, Yuzvendra Chahal and Harshal Patel with sharp, aggressive captaincy by Kohli adding an edge to their campaign.
Maxwell has always been a much sought-after player in the IPL. But barring one hugely successful season in the past, the Australian rarely lived up to his reputation as one of the most destructive limited-overs batsmen of all time.
This season RCB owe their current happy situation to two fantastic half-centuries from Maxwell. He’s also pitched in tellingly with his off-spin every now and then.
Chahal, overlooked for the T20 World Cup, has scoffed at the selectors in the second phase, producing wicket-taking, match-turning spells. Against Punjab, he picked up three wickets in the middle overs after KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal had given their team a fine start.
Chahal’s bowled with such control and guile that no other spinner this season has come closing to matching his standards.
Patel’s been arguably the biggest boon to RCB. Shorn of star status, he’s made a huge impact, bowling in the middle and death overs with exemplary control and skills. He’s got a big repertoire of improvisations, strong nerve and a good understanding of how batsmen think.
It’s not a surprise then to see him wearing the purple cap.
Kohli’s own form has been extremely good, which has bolstered RCB’s strength. Players draw succour from a captain’s performances, and Kohli seems to be emerging from a prolonged lean trot that spilled over into all formats in international cricket too.
With the ebullient Devdutt Padikkal as his opening partner, Kohli has been able to give RCB good starts.
If there is an area of concern still, it would be the lack of big knocks from AB de Villiers. But this will be a source of threat to RCB’s opponents in the remainder of this tournament.
The South African genius can’t be kept quiet for so long. Someone will have to pay a heavy price.
While the T20 format is hugely unpredictable, it will be difficult for SRH to upset RCB. Apart from the unsavoury controversy over David Warner, SRH’s batting has unravelled badly with none from the top order, including Kane Williamson, making an impact.
This has mitigated the efforts of the bowlers, especially Rashid Khan and Jason Holder. In the defeat to KKR the other night, these two and young fast bowler Umran Malik did put up a fight, but the team was hapless once again due to their fragile batting.
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator
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