There is something right about Royal Challengers Bangalore this season. The Men in Red have started their Indian Premier League 2021 campaign on an astonishing note with three wins in as many encounters and are the only side yet to be beaten. For a change, they have got their combination right from the very first game, and this is the first time they have won their first three games of a season. Bangalore will now take on Rajasthan Royals at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday (April 22).
Virat Kohli and Co. played their first three matches in Chennai and managed to ace the conditions that are completely opposite to what they have in Bangalore. They now move to Mumbai where they will play their next two encounters and it would be interesting to see how they adapt to the conditions that will be more favourable for batsmen. Bangalore will be up against a side who are without a couple of their key players and have struggled to get going. The Sanju Samson-led unit were recently outclassed by Chennai Super Kings and would be itching to turn things around as soon as possible.
SAME OLD STORY FOR SAMSON
"I think IPL definitely demands a lot of risk-taking shots. And, I said before when I succeeded, I took a lot of risks. That's why I scored a hundred. Actually, I don't want to restrict my shots, I want to keep on playing my shots and keep on batting the way I love to bat actually. So, I'm also accepting a lot of failures on the way. When you play IPL, pressure is always there. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you fail. I think IPL is a long format and you play 14 continuous matches, it is very normal to fail in a few matches."
You can understand where Samson is coming from. He enjoys playing an attacking brand of cricket and that was on full display in Rajasthan's season opener against Punjab Kings. Samson smashed a stunning century but since then has managed scores of 4 and 1. This is not something new for Samson who has a history of being inconsistent. In IPL 2020, Samson slammed two fifties in the first two games but operated at an average of just 19.64 in the remaining encounters. Let's talk about IPL 2019, scores of 30 and 102 in the first two matches and then an average of just over 23 in the remaining games. And, we could keep going and going.
Since IPL 2019, only three players have scored more than one IPL century – Samson, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan. However, Samson has been very inconsistent. In the same period, Samson has been dismissed for a single-digit score 13 times while Dhawan and Rahul combined together have been dismissed the same number of times. In all the last three seasons, he scored more than 40% of his season’s total runs in the first three matches. One of the reasons for his downfall has been his approach against pacers. He tries slashing wide deliveries off seamers in the first 10 balls of his innings and this has been a major pattern for his dismissals in this edition.
Rajasthan have lost Ben Stokes for the entire season, while the Indian batting unit - comprising of Manan Vohra, Shivam Dube, Riyan Parag and Rahul Tewatia - doesn't promise a lot. They will perform every now and then but would be far from consistent. And, that's why Samson along with Jos Buttler will have to deliver on consistent basis. The Englishman smacked a good-looking 49 against Chennai but will have to get those big scores to make a bigger impact. The two will get some support from David Miller who has already made a match-winning contribution this season - 62 against Delhi Capitals.
RCB RIDING HIGH ON MAXWELL-ABD COMBO
Bangalore are on a roll this season. Skipper Kohli might not have set the stage on fire yet but Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers surely have. Maxwell has two fifties in three games and is currently RCB's leading run-scorer - 176 runs at an average of 58.66 and a strike rate of 149.15. He already has scored more runs than what he did in the entire season last year. He was brought in to counter the spinners and keep the scoring rate high in the middle-overs and he has played that role to perfection.
He has scored 122 runs in overs 7-15 which happens to be the second-highest amongst all the batters in this IPL. Brought in to fix the spin woes, Maxwell has responded in a fine style. He has scored 110 runs against spin in this IPL and is yet to be dismissed. What makes his effort very special is that he is the only player in this IPL to have scored more than 100 runs against spinners. Meanwhile, de Villiers too has already played a couple of match-winning knocks and has a pretty solid record in Mumbai, and so does Kohli who would want to get back to his best.
However, the biggest positive to come out of the first three games is the way their bowlers have performed so far. The likes of Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj, Shahbaz Ahmed and Washington Sundar have been impressive, while Kyle Jamieson and Yuzvendra Chahal have been a bit expensive. Harshal and Siraj have an economy of less than six but it would be interesting to see how they adapt to the batting-friendly conditions in Mumbai. Bangalore will probably make a couple of changes, with spinners not being so effective in Mumbai. They also have the option of bringing in someone like Mohammed Azharuddeen or Finn Allen who would enjoy batting at the Wankhede. Shahbaz Ahmed might miss out and RCB could play a seamer in place of him.
Bangalore - Virat Kohli (c), Devdutt Padikkal, Mohammed Azharuddeen/Finn Allen, Glenn Maxwell, AB de Villiers (wk), Washington Sundar, Kyle Jamieson, Harshal Patel, Daniel Sams/Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Rajasthan - Jos Buttler, Manan Vohra/Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson (c & wk), Shivam Dube, David Miller, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Chris Morris, Jaydev Unadkat, Chetan Sakariya, Mustafizur Rahman.