It has been 1,237 days since Kings XI Punjab last defeated the Royal Challengers Bangalore (in IPL 2017). It is currently their longest active streak without a win against any IPL franchise. In their season opener, in Dubai, both teams looked underprepared to take the field. There were dropped catches, misfields, shallow plans and poorly executed tactics. The toll of not playing cricket for a long time was visible on many players.
The two sides, however, will take the field carrying different results from the previous game. The implosion of Hyderabad’s batting handed Bangalore two points to begin their season whereas Punjab ended up second against Delhi after a tied game, still waiting to get off the mark on the points table.
The Most Balanced Squad?
Prior to the tournament, Virat Kohli suggested that this is the most balanced Bangalore squad ever. While the notion has turned up every year for the past few seasons, Kohli might be actually right this time given Bangalore invested in fast bowlers during the auction. Six out of their eight buys in the options were done with the view of strengthening the bowling.
Chris Morris, at INR 10 crore, was a key signing for them ticking various boxes - a potential answer to their death over woes with enough expertise to bat at seven. Bangalore, however, baffled everyone by benching him in the first game. Dale Steyn looked off colour and Umesh Yadav’s awry line forced Kohli to bowl Shivam Dube at the death. Fortunately, Hyderabad’s self-destructive mode allowed Bangalore to prevail despite an unbalanced bowling arsenal.
Bangalore would want to make things right soon and a straight swap between Morris and Steyn will be a step in the right direction. Otherwise, there is no point in assembling your most balanced squad if you ain’t playing the right players.
Same issues for KXIP?
Much like Bangalore, Punjab also have a troubled history in the death bowling department. They have consistently found themselves in the lower-half of the death economy rate section for the past three seasons.
Punjab fielded both their new recruits, Sheldon Cottrell and Chris Jordan but leaked 57 runs in the last three overs. This encounter could turn out to be about which side can cover their chinks better.
KXIP need returns from Maxwell and Pooran
Acquiring Glenn Maxwell in the auction to partner Nicholas Pooran during the middle-overs was a crucial development in Punjab’ camp. Pooran (0) and Maxwell (1) failed to live upto the expectations in the first game but will be vital against Bangalore.
Since 2018, Punjab have batted at 6.9 runs per over against Bangalore during the middle-phase, better than only Chennai Super Kings’ 6.5. It has been a big reason behind their winless record against Bangalore. While Chennai’s pedestrian approach is governed by the tactic to attack Bangalore’s vulnerable death bowling keeping wickets in hand, Punjab has regularly crumbled losing a wicket every 15.6 runs in comparison to Chennai’s 29.3.
The onus will be on Maxwell and Pooran to turn the tables around in Punjab’s favor.
What drags Punjab back in the middle-overs against Bangalore? The answer is Yuzvendra Chahal. The leg-spinner who bowled the match-turning over versus Hyderabad has his best bowling strike-rate in IPL against Punjab.
Chahal has the wood over Maxwell. He has dismissed the swashbuckling batsman thrice going for only 21 runs in the five times he has bowled to him and the contest will be on again.
Similarly, AB de Villiers also enjoys batting versus Punjab. His last three innings facing them read 82* (44), 59* (38) and 57 (40). Twice he was the man-of-the-match.
He was one of the few fluent performers against Hyderabad. His 51 off 30 balls showed the time away from cricket has not laid any rust over his genius and he will again be the key throughout the tournament.
However, de Villiers has averaged only 6.8 runs per dismissal against googlies in IPL since 2017. Punjab has Ravi Bishnoi who made an impressive debut in their previous game. He rose to the prominence in the U19 World Cup through his undeciphered googlies and snaffled Rishabh Pant as his maiden IPL wicket with a similar delivery. The match-up between one of the biggest superstars of the tournament in de Villiers and a promising youngster in Bishnoi sets up a mouth-watering contest.
Alongside these player battles, we will also witness a number of Karnataka players against their native franchise. While Bangalore have only Devdutt Padikkal and Pavan Deshpande adding the local state flavor in their squad, Punjab has a core of established Karnataka players in their arsenal - KL Rahul, Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal, Krishnappa Gowtham and Jagdeesh Suchith. Punjab’s head coach, Anil Kumble is himself a legend of Indian and Karnataka cricket. He will be against Kohli for the first time since resigning as India’s coach post the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Aaron Finch, Devdutt Padikkal, Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Josh Philippe (wk), Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Chris Morris/Dale Steyn, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Navdeep Saini
Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (c & wk), Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Sarfaraz Khan, Krishnappa Gowtham, Chris Jordan, Mohammed Shami, Ravi Bishnoi, Sheldon Cottrell
The match starts at 7.30 PM IST, on Thursday (September 24)
Image courtesy: BCCI