Royal Challengers Bangalore have won four of their six encounters in the Indian Premier League 2022 and they have done that without much contribution from the top-order. The likes of Dinesh Karthik, Glenn Maxwell and Shahbaz Ahmed have been amongst runs but skipper Faf du Plessis, Anuj Rawat and Virat Kohli are all averaging way below 30. However, former England batter Nick Knight believes that the surfaces haven’t been easy to tackle for the top-order batters and it won’t be too long before RCB openers du Plessis and Rawat come good.
“I have been looking at who the leading run-scorers are and in the top-10, there are five openers and five of them who bat in the middle-order. So, it’s not been straightforward for the first few weeks. There has been grass on the surfaces, so the bowlers have got something to work with. And, it’s not been so straightforward for the top-two or top-three batters. If you are batting in the middle-order, there will be opportunities to bat in the powerplay. We saw that with David Miller against CSK. But when the grass dries out and the surfaces change a little bit, then you can focus more on Faf, Rawat and others. I think Rawat is a player who can kick on,” he told Cricket.com.
Meanwhile, Kohli too hasn’t really set the stage on fire. The former captain does have a couple of 40s to his name and has actually looked in decent touch. He has been run-out on two occasions and Knight feels Kohli just needs that one big score to return back to his absolute best. “He needs to score as many runs as possible and support Faf. He is a very fine leader and has been one for a very long time. He is not tossing the coin and captaining but he will be out there guiding and advising.
“When you look at five or six of his innings so far, there are two run-outs, one close lbw call where he definitely got an inside edge and has got two 40s. I don’t think he is out of form and I don’t see it when I see him play. What I love about him when he comes to bat is that the tempo of the game often changes. The energy around him, he is looking for ones and twos and everyone is on their toes. Once he gets that big score, he will be flying. At the moment, it’s been little frustrating.”
Bangalore will now take on Lucknow Super Giants on Tuesday (April 19). KL Rahul and Co. have themselves been in pretty good form, having won four of their six matches. Bangalore will have to be careful against Rahul who smashed a stunning century against Mumbai Indians. The right-handed opener has done well against RCB in the past and Knight wants du Plessis to use Glenn Maxwell and Josh Hazlewood against him early in the innings. “He has a good record against most sides, and he got that brilliant hundred against Mumbai in their last game. He is a great, great player and I love watching him bat. In particular, in this format.
“It will be a challenge for Faf and RCB regarding how they go against him. As Mumbai did in the last game, RCB might open with offspin. They might bring in Glenn Maxwell. He won’t guarantee you four overs and he could get away with one at the top and will serve a little bit for Quinton de Kock. I don’t think he is as comfortable against offspin early in the innings, so you might go with Maxwell. I wouldn’t leave it too long before i go with Hazlewood. You need to with your No. 1 bowler and your trump card. If you look at Rahul, you look at that Shami’s dismissal in the first game… Yes, that would have got most players out, but if anyone can bowl that sort of ball, it’s Hazlewood. So, one over of Maxwell and then bring in Hazlewood straightaway.”
Knight also wants LSG to back Manish Pandey at No. 3 and try not to promote Marcus Stonis up the order if Lucknow lose their openers early in the powerplay. Pandey was dropped from the team for a couple of games but got 38 off 29 against Mumbai, a score that might give him some confidence going ahead into the tournament. “I don’t think Stoinis should be No. 3… Well, if the openers bat for 10 overs, then yes. But if they lose an early wicket, I would personally look to bring Stonis after the 12th or 13th over. Use him more as a finisher,” said Knight.
“I would stick with Manish Pandey. He got some runs in the last game. It’s been a problem for Lucknow, trying to find someone for that No. 3 position. They have swapped players constantly but now is the time to stick with Manish Pandey at 3. He hasn’t got the runs he would have liked but he is a good player. Then, they have got plenty of resources there in the middle-order.”
What’s more, Lucknow haven’t been consistent with the ball in the first six overs. They have the worst economy rate in the powerplay and haven’t been to find the right combination when it comes to bowling with the new ball. Jason Holder has been impressive in the middle and death overs but hasn’t picked up a single wicket in the powerplay in IPL 2022.
“They have tried different bowling combinations early in the innings in almost every game. They too are juggling around a bit, trying to find that right combination. In some cases, it’s inevitable. It’s a new franchise, new players coming together and a new tournament for them. I am a big fan of Jason Holder and have watched his development over the last few years. I would save at least two of his overs for the death. He holds his nerves and wants to bowl those overs. That’s one of his strengths. You can give him an over in the powerplay but I would use him more in the middle and end.”
Knight also heaped heavy praise on Avesh Khan. “He is right up there and I have followed him for the last couple of years through this tournament. There are two things that I have noticed about him. He is quite a tall guy. I was wandering around in the ground and when you look at him, he is a tall guy. He is going to get a bit more bounce on the surfaces we are seeing in this tournament. I also think he has got a little bit quicker and is definitely hurrying the batters a little bit more. And, when you are bowling at the death, what had really impressed me and it’s the same with Harshal Patel, I think he is bowling the ball the batters don’t want. That’s a great skill and you can’t teach that. It’s game awareness.”