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Challengers and Royals out to prove themselves

Shreedutta Chidananda

— Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Bucking up:The likes of Saurabh Tiwary and Virat Kohli have to come up with better performances if Royal Challengers is to get its IPL bid back on track.

Bangalore: Royal Challengers Bangalore approaches its second home game of IPL-IV in markedly lower spirits than it did the first.

On the eve of the Mumbai Indians fixture, the mood was one of cheery optimism, the side fresh off a tense win in its opening game at Kochi.

A sequence of three clear defeats thereafter has seen RCB occupying the foot of the table (for some time, at least) ahead of Tuesday's clash with Rajasthan Royals at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here.

All three losses were characterised by a failure to score quick runs at the start of the innings, illustrated by Power Play totals of 24, 28, and 33. Tillakaratne Dilshan looked in stately form at the World Cup, emerging the highest run scorer, but has failed to carry his form into the IPL.

The Sri Lankan, on Monday announced captain of the National side on its England tour, has been expensive with the ball and his laboured fifty against Mumbai remains his only batting contribution.

Dilshan's partnership with young Mayank Agarwal has yielded scores of 7, 0, 8, and 1 for the opening wicket — a measly average stand of 4.

Support indispensable

Virat Kohli and A.B. de Villiers have, willy nilly, had the responsibility of doing most of the scoring, and responded admirably under the circumstances.

The latter indicated in his pre-match press conference that “one or two” changes in the batting line-up were in the offing. Support for the pair from those around will be indispensable if RCB is to turn its wretched run around.  

The team's bowling troubles, however, appear less easily resolved.

While skipper Daniel Vettori has been his usual parsimonious self, maintaining an economy rate of a little over five, the rest of the attack has leaked runs like a second-hand sieve.

The normally-reliable Zaheer Khan looks below his World Cup best, while Dirk Nannes's spell on the sidelines is expected to continue — a matter of no little consequence.

Spinner Ryan Ninan may not have been economical against CSK, but picked up two important wickets with his flight; something that will offer Vettori some desperately-needed hope.

Asad Pathan replaced S. Arvind on that occasion but the latter could find himself back in the eleven on Tuesday.  

Similar woes

Rajasthan Royals, meanwhile, has endured a similar set of poor results. After two wins, Shane Warne's men have succumbed to Kolkata Knight Riders twice in the space of three days.

The Australian was scathing in his assessment of his side's performance after the second of those matches, calling it “weak” and “embarrassing” and saying the team played “like kids”.

The home side will be wary of Warne's compatriots Shane Watson and Shaun Tait, with their potential for damage with bat and ball respectively no secret.

The involvement of Rahul Dravid and Johan Botha, both of whom missed the tie at Eden Gardens owing to injury, remain in doubt.

The latter is one of Rajasthan's players from previous seasons, repurchased at the auction, and has repaid the management's faith. Botha has been the team's highest run-getter at this edition, and his services, should he not feature, will be sorely missed.

Definitely turning out for the visitor, however, will be former RCB player Ross Taylor, once the darling of the crowds at this venue. The reception he receives will be an interesting gauge of how firm team loyalties in the IPL are.   

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