While on the one hand, things are looking up for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), having won three of the last four games, but for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on the other, it's a matter of grave concern. After thrashing RCB at Eden Gardens and pulling off a heist in Ahmedabad, the Knight Riders have succumbed to four consecutive defeats.
The Chinnaswamy Stadium has been a happy hunting ground for KKR, having won each of their last four matches and at this stage of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, they will take anything positive to hang on to, as they aim to stay relevant in the competition.
For RCB, it's just a question of finding more than one or two match-winners. Like previous seasons, they have been heavily dependent on just two-three players, which could go on to hurt them in the long run. That could be the difference between qualifying for the playoffs and winning the tournament.
Things to watch out for
Same old story for RCB
The trio of Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell have accounted for 74.25% of the runs for RCB in IPL 2023. Combined, they have scored with an average of 52, striking at 162.67, while the rest of the team have scored at just 110.87, averaging 11.08.
Not to mention, the trio have combined hit 130 boundaries, while the rest of the team have managed just 28.
It's a sense of deja vu for the RCB fans, a reminder of the good old days when they were dependent on Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Kohli. How many more seasons will it take before they realise they need more than three batters to win the title? RCB will hope this is the game the rest of the batters turn a corner and make an impactful contribution.
KKR over-dependent on spinners?
Shubh Aggarwal in his mid-season review specifically points out that none of the KKR pacers have been threatening as their average of 59.3 depicts. Adding more to it, KKR have been the worst bowling unit across the three phases. In fact, KKR (9.9) are up against a team who have the best economy rate in the powerplay (7), while their numbers in the middle and death of 8.6 and 11.3 respectively are also among the worst in the tournament.
Their spin trio of Varun Chakravarthy, Sunil Narine and Suyash Sharma have done the bulk of the bowling. KKR spinners have picked up 27 wickets in the tournament so far, which is the most for any team. However, if you pull out a microscope and look closer, the trio have not been as efficient as the numbers claim.
All of them had just a game or maybe two where they were brilliant. The three combined to pick up nine wickets against RCB at Eden Gardens, with Varun claiming 4 for 15 and leg-spinner Suyash, who came in as an impact sub picking up 3 for 30.
If you remove the RCB game, their numbers are pretty ordinary.
On a ground where even 200-plus is not safe, RCB have successfully defended 189 and 174 here, emphasising that the captain winning the toss should bat first. In fact, the team batting first in the last three matches at this venue have gone on to win the game.
The pacers have been at the top of their game, accounting for 73% of the wickets this season, but do not discount the spinners from getting into the game more, especially in the latter stages of the match. The average score batting first here has been 194 in IPL 2023 and this very well could be a match-winning one.
Narine has been a thorn in Kohli's flesh, having dismissed him four times in T20 cricket. He also got the better of him the last two times these two heavyweights clashed in the IPL. At the Eden Gardens earlier this season, Kohli was fooled by a beautiful off-break delivery that spun in sharply to knock the top of off. Kohli has been cautious against Narine over the years, operating at a strike-rate of 97.2.
Incidentally, Kohli's was one of two wickets Narine has picked up in the powerplay this season. Kohli has been dismissed twice by an off-spinner this season, scoring at a strike-rate of 73.3 against them - something that could further persuade Nitish Rana to bring Narine on as early as possible.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Three of RCB's four overseas spots are fixed. The only toss-up will be between David Willey and Wayne Parnell. The former played ahead of the South Africa speedster and did not do all that badly. It will be a surprise if they tinker with that. However, that will depend on the return of Josh Hazlewood. He has joined the RCB camp and should be fit to start this game if reports are to be believed.
Dinesh Karthik's contribution this season has been bare minimum, with scores of 0, 9, 1*, 0, 28, 7 and 16. RCB will hope he comes good along with the Indian batting contingent that comprises of Mahipal Lomror, Suyash Prabhudessai and Shahbaz Ahmed.
Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis (c), Mahipal Lomror, Glenn Maxwell, Shahbaz Ahmed, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Suyash Prabhudessai, David Willey/Josh Hazlewood, Wanindu Hasaranga, Mohammed Siraj, Vijaykumar Vyshak, Harshal Patel.
Kolkata Knight Riders
As far as KKR are concerned, they could do without the out-of-form Andre Russell but will give him a go given that he has tasted some success at Chinnaswamy (132 runs, SR 240). Chinnaswamy has seen some movement early on and as a result, it will be a good idea to give Tim Southee a go in place of his countryman Lockie Ferguson, whose pace could be an added fodder for the batters here.
N Jagadeesan (wk), Jason Roy, Nitish Rana (c), Andre Russell, Rinku Singh, Sunil Narine, David Wiese, Kulwant Khejroliya, Suyash Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Chakaravarthy.