Prior to Royal Challengers Bangalore’s first game this season, captain Virat Kohli said this was ‘our most balanced side ever’. After the first round of games, it appeared Royal Challengers had the most unbalanced XI among all teams: a star-studded top four, followed by an untested middle order and a bowling attack lacking penetration. Kolkata Knight Riders chipped away at that top four and then romped to a four-wicket win on Sunday.
Back home, Royal Challengers need to achieve two things with immediate urgency: find their best team balance and regain home-ground advantage. On a relaid pitch that favoured spinners, Royal Challengers won only one game at the Chinnaswamy Stadium last season.
Kings XI Punjab, on the other hand, have laid out their template for this season: using spin at various points of an innings to stifle opponents and staying aggressive with the bat. It worked in their tournament opener, against Delhi Daredevils, but there are also holes to plug, such as Yuvraj Singh’s form: he laboured to a 22-ball 12.
Also, considering the relative ease with which fingerspinners are handled in modern-day T20 cricket – Kings XI have two in R Ashwin and Axar Patel – and with death-overs specialist Andrew Tye being taken for 38 runs in four overs, there aren’t many fall-back options. Against one of the better batting teams in the IPL and with the small dimensions of the Chinnawamy Stadium, the margin of error for Kings XI is little.
In the news
Aaron Finch has joined the Kings XI squad after his wedding, and could slot in the opening position in place of Mayank Agarwal. Chris Gayle and KL Rahul also return to the home ground of their former franchise.
The likely XIs
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Brendon McCullum, 2 Parthiv Patel (wk), 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Sarfraz Khan, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul (wk), 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Karun Nair, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Manoj Tiwary, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin (capt.), 9 Andrew Tye, 10 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 11 Mohit Sharma
Stats that matter
Compared to pace, Yuvraj Singh has struggled against spin in the IPL since 2015. He has scored 222 runs off 219 balls against the slow bowlers, at a strike rate of 101.4 and a dot-ball percentage of 50.2. Against pace, he has scored 526 runs off 369 balls, with a strike rate of 142.6.
The average score batting first at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium last year (142) was 32 runs below the average overall score (174) in the IPL at this ground.
AB de Villiers does not have a strike rate below 150 against any form of bowling. Virat Kohli has a strike rate under 125 against left-arm pace, right-arm offspin and left-arm orthdodox spin.
With five specialist bowlers in their team, Kings XI have plenty of depth in their attack. There is, perhaps, a case for Kings XI to go against the chasing trend – the team batting second has won all the matches so far this season. Also, in 25 IPL games at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium since the start of the 2015 season, only two teams have elected to bat after winning the toss.
Kings XI could opt for a high-risk, high-reward choice of staying aggressive from the outset, like they successfully did last season at the chasing-friendly Wankhede Stadium, and bat Royal Challengers out of the game. If all they manage is a par score, they have the failsafe of their stronger suit in the clutch moments of the game.
Kohli v de Villiers? Like in the real world, you’d want your best fantasy batsman to play as many balls as possible, allowing you to maximise on points. Kohli will bat higher than de Villiers, and could face considerably more deliveries. Even though de Villiers’ strike-rate is higher, Kohli could you earn more runs, and therefore more points.
“From what I see, he’s very calculated. He thinks about the game well. Every decision he makes, there’s a reason behind why he does that. So far it’s been pretty relaxed, pretty low-key, letting the guys do what they need to do.”
David Miller on R Ashwin’s captaincy
“We probably won’t expect playing against Chris (Gayle) tomorrow with the way they set the team up in the first game and with Aaron Finch coming back to the side. But if he does, if any team knows how good he is, it’s RCB with what he’s done for the team for a number of years.”
Royal Challengers coach Daniel Vettori on Chris Gayle