Little room for error as struggling RCB face dominant KKR


PTI, Apr 20, 2024, 2:24 PM IST

Kolkata: Aware that they cannot afford any more slip-ups, Royal Challengers Bengaluru will have their task cut out when they face dominant hosts Kolkata Knight Riders in a tricky Indian Premier League match here on Sunday.

RCB’s pursuit of a maiden IPL title has once again hit a roadblock following six losses in seven matches.

With five consecutive defeats, the bottom-ranked RCB now confront the daunting task of winning their remaining seven games to keep their playoff prospects alive.

For a side that has been severely let down by their bowlers and relies heavily on the batting prowess of Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis and veteran Dinesh Karthik, facing KKR presents a significant challenge.

‘From a bowling perspective, we don’t have as many weapons. So, unfortunately, it comes down to the batters to make sure that we use our form and our confidence. The scores that we put on the board are probably going to be the only way we are going to get into the competition,’ their skipper Du Plessis has admitted earlier.

The fact that they are coming after conceding the IPL’s record total of 287/3 by Sunrisers Hyderabad in their last match will undoubtedly linger in the minds of their bowlers.

It would not be a bad idea to bring back their most expensive (Rs 11.5-crore) buy this season, Alzarri Joseph, to go alongside Mohammed Siraj, who was not picked against SRH.

Joseph has bagged a solitary wicket in three appearances for RCB while also getting hammered at 11.89 runs per over.

Glenn Maxwell’s spin also could have been a nice option, but the struggling Australian all-rounder, who pulled out of the game against SRH citing ‘mental fatigue’, is also battling a hip strain that may keep him out of action for some more time.

Their batting has centred around the two openers — Kohli and Du Plessis — and Karthik, while the rest of the players have failed miserably.

Kohli is once again leading the run chart with 361 runs at 72.20, though his middle over strike rate of 135 has been a cause of concern.

The star Indian batter more often than not was seen to have slowed down against the spinners in the crucial 7-15th over phase after getting a start in the power play.

Du Plessis has been their next best batter with 232 runs, but it’s seasoned wicketkeeper-batter Karthik, who has been phenomenal in his final IPL season.

The veteran has amassed 226 runs at a strike-rate of 205-plus and in the monstrous chase against SRH, it was his 35-ball 83 that gave them hope of scripting an improbable win before they fell short by 25 runs.

The trio will again have to play a key role against the likes of Sunil Narine, Mitchell Starc and Harshit Rana.

The home side will also be coming on the back of a defeat to Rajasthan Royals in a last-ball finish.

So KKR, who have played one match less then RCB, will also eye a return to winning ways and inch closer to playoffs by taking their tally to 10 points at the midway stage.

The biggest threat for RCB will be Narine, not just with the ball but also with the bat at the top of the order.

Narine, who scored his maiden T20 century in their last match against RR, is KKR’s leading run-getter this season with 276 runs at an incredible strike rate of over 187.

The next best KKR batter is his opening partner Phil Salt, who has struck at a rate of 151-plus.

The pair’s splendid form means that the likes of Rinku Singh, Andre Russell have got limited opportunities.

With a maiden fifty to his name, youngster Angkrish Raghuvanshi has impressed with his batting.

RCB will have to target the KKR top-three to expose their batting and give themselves some chance.

With the city in the grip of an extreme heat wave, the temperature is expected to soar to 41-degree Centigrade come Sunday.

Teams:

Kolkata Knight Riders: Shreyas Iyer (c), KS Bharat, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Rinku Singh, Angkrish Raghuvanshi, Sherfane Rutherford, Manish Pandey, Andre Russell, Nitish Rana, Venkatesh Iyer, Anukul Roy, Ramandeep Singh, Varun Chakravarthy, Sunil Narine, Vaibhav Arora, Chetan Sakariya, Harshit Rana, Suyash Sharma, Mitchell Starc, Dushmantha Chameera, Sakib Hussain and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

Royal Challengers Bengaluru: Faf du Plessis (c), Glenn Maxwell, Virat Kohli, Rajat Patidar, Anuj Rawat, Dinesh Karthik, Suyash Prabhudessai, Will Jacks, Mahipal Lomror, Karn Sharma, Manoj Bhandage, Mayank Dagar, Vijaykumar Vyshak, Akash Deep, Mohammed Siraj, Reece Topley, Himanshu Sharma, Rajan Kumar, Cameron Green, Alzarri Joseph, Yash Dayal, Tom Curran, Lockie Ferguson, Swapnil Singh and Saurav Chauhan.

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