IPL 2022: It could be make or break for Royal Challengers Bangalore

A victory would almost certainly take RCB into the playoffs, a defeat will likely see them bumped off from the tournament on inferior Net Run Rate, if not on points

By Ayaz Memon

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Will this be Virat Kohli’s night of redemption? — BCCI
Will this be Virat Kohli’s night of redemption? — BCCI

Published: Wed 18 May 2022, 11:39 PM

Royal Challengers Bangalore play their most important match on Thursday night, and as luck would have it, meet the mighty Gujarat Titans, who are sitting atop the points table. A victory would almost certainly take RCB into the playoffs, a defeat will likely see them bumped off from the tournament on inferior Net Run Rate, if not on points.

Still in quest of their maiden title, are there happy days ahead for RCB or will this be yet another futile year? Time will tell. T20 is a diabolically unpredictable format, it must be reiterated. But all indicators suggest that RCB will have to play extraordinarily well, or the Titans unexpectedly poorly, for an upset result.

Remember, Gujarat had won the first encounter too between the teams. That was a close match, RCB fighting hard to defend 170, losing only in the final over after a smash-hit partnership between David Miller and Rahul Tewatia.

All key GT players — Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Rashid Khan, Shubman Gill, Rahul Tewatia, Wriddhiman Saha, Lockie Ferguson, have been in extremely good form.

But the team’s strength has not come from only individual brilliance, rather superb collaboration that has seen them win 10 matches out of 13.

Every time the team was in a crisis, some player or the other bailed them out, sometimes from impossible situations.

RCB, on the other hand, have been so flip-flop, it is a surprise they are still afloat for a place in the play-offs! Barring a seven to 10 days period in the first month, they haven’t been able to win matches consistently to consolidate their position in the points table, else they would have been in the last four already with the Titans.

A win or two has been followed by one or two defeats to pull them back. Three defeats in their last five matches, including a 54-run mauling by Punjab in the last match has kept them on tenterhooks. Punjab had been struggling themselves and this was an opportunity missed by the Bangalore team.

RCB have to thank Wanindu Hasaranga and Dinesh Karthik for being in a situation where they still have scope to make it to the play-offs. Karthik’s adventurous batting has been one of the highlights of the tournament. Sri Lankan leg-spinner Hasaranga, who played very few matches last season, was bought for a hefty price in the auction and has justified every rupee spent on him.

While Faf du Plessis, Glenn Maxwell (to an extent), Josh Hazlewood (except in the last match against Punjab) and Harshal Patel have lived up to reputation, Mohammed Siraj has had a very disappointing run. Rajat Patidar and Shahbaz Ahmed have had a mixed tournament, but considering their inexperience, the promise they showed was encouraging.

Inevitably, the conversation steers to Virat Kohli’s astonishingly poor form. There is no question that this has had an impact on RCB’s overall performance. With Kohli getting mellower with each failure, the flavour of the team’s on-field demeanour has also been somewhat tepid.

Interestingly, the only half century Kohli made this season came against the Titans. Given the string of low scores that followed, that has become insignificant. However, after the last match against Punjab in which he got a rapid 20 and looked to be coming into his own, RCB’s Director of Cricket Operations Mike Hesson said a big score from the former captain was round the corner.

Will this be Virat Kohli’s night of redemption?

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

Players To Watch Out For:

RCB: Faf du Plessis, Glenn Maxwell, Wanindu Hasaranga

GT: Hardik Pandya, Shubman Gill, Mohammed Shami

Key Contests: Mohammed Shami vs Virat Kohli, Josh Hazlewood vs Shubman Gill

X Factor: Rashid Khan

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