After blowing hot and cold for most part of the season, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have staged a remarkable turnaround, with consecutive victories over Gujarat Lions and Kolkata Knight Riders reigniting their IPL playoffs hopes. With two matches left in the league, RCB’s road to the final four will be tough, since four other teams too are in the race.
When they host Kings XI Punjab, who are out of the race, on Wednesday in their final home game, RCB will have to play with caution as anything other than a win may jeopardise their campaign. Although the hosts, with 12 points from 12 matches, need to win the remaining matches to stay alive, their superior net run-rate (+0.640) will come in handy in case of a tie.
Their situation is so critical that skipper Virat Kohli , who sustained a split webbing in his left hand while fielding against Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday, has said he is ready to brave any pain to help his team win. “The split is big and it requires stitches. I don’t mind even 10 stitches as long as we win the next two games,” said Kohli, making his intentions clear after a 51-ball 75 against KKR.
With Kohli at his best, having scored a record three centuries and five fifties this season, RCB will be praying that the in-form top order bat is in fine shape ahead of the crucial contest, as his absence could derail their plans. In a positive sign for RCB, Chris Gayle has roared back to form after a prolonged slump with a 31-ball 49 against KKR. Like Kohli, AB de Villiers continues to be the team’s mainstay.
The area of concern for RCB will be their weak bowling, which has flopped at crunch situations. While Shane Watson and Sreenath Arvind had a poor outing against KKR with the duo averaging over 10 runs an over, legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal, who is their best bowler with 12 wickets and an economy of 7.81, too leaked runs.
On the other hand, Punjab, although out of playoff contention with eight points from 12 matches, will be keen to spoil RCB’s party. The Murali Vijay-led side suffered a setback on match eve as Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell was ruled out with a side strain.
In his absence, Punjab will have to rely on Vijay and in-form Hashim Amla , David Miller, Wriddhiman Saha and Marcus Stoinis to bolster their batting. Among their bowlers, the pace duo of Sandeep Sharma (13 wickets) and Mohit Sharma (12) and left-arm spinner Axar Patel (11) are in good form. Legspinner KC Cariappa too has had a good outing and Punjab will bank on the local lad to come good against RCB.