As the clichéd saying goes, ‘there are no easy games’, certainly not in a competition like the IPL. But if RCB had been asked to hand-pick one side to face to get their confidence back up and get back to winning ways, it goes without saying Delhi Capitals would have been their first choice.
IPL 2023 is already 15 days and 18 games old, and the Capitals are yet to get on the board.
It is not often that you see nothing, absolutely nothing going right for a side but, thus far, it’s been one of those seasons for DC — their batting and bowling have both been dysfunctional and they are, to put it lightly, a mess as things stand.
That they were comprehensively outclassed three days ago by Mumbai, who themselves have been struggling, should tell you everything you need to know about where DC currently stand.
They enter Saturday’s clash with their confidence at its nether, probably the lowest it has been in five years.
Delhi’s opponents, RCB, are by no means flying high, having lost back-to-back matches themselves, but you do feel that they might look at Saturday’s clash as a real opportunity to set things straight.
A home match against the worst side in the competition (on form, at least) in front of 40,000 faithful.
RCB surely can’t afford to blow this, can they?
Things to watch out for
David Warner’s strike rate — it’s been actively hurting Delhi
‘Can’t blame or fault him, the whole team collapsed’ claimed many in the aftermath of Warner’s slow knocks against RR (65 off 55) and Lucknow (56 off 48), hesitant to criticize him, but on the back of his painful inning against Mumbai (51 off 47 batting first on a true wicket), it’s become evident that Warner’s form (or, rather, lack of fluency) is as big a problem for DC as anything else.
The runs have been coming for Warner (209 runs @ 52.25), but at what cost?
As things stand, after 19 matches, no batter with 100+ runs has batted as slowly as Warner, and the Delhi skipper, astonishingly, is the only batter in the entire competition (minimum 100 runs) to have not hit a single six.
Two things can be true at once, and that’s what’s happening in the case of Delhi.
Indeed, their Indian top-order batters (Shaw, Sarfaraz etc) and x-factor overseas picks (Marsh, Rossouw and Powell) have both failed to show up. Equally, however, Warner has also been guilty of underperforming, his lack of fluency having an undeniable cascading effect on the rest of the side.
Heading into Saturday, then, all eyes will be on Warner’s strike rate.
The good news for DC is that their skipper will be playing an opponent he likes at a venue he loves. Overall in the IPL, Warner has struck 820 runs vs RCB at 45.56 avg and 161.4 and at the Chinnaswamy, this number shoots up to 47.14 and 164.2 respectively.
Kohli vs DC’s spinners in the middle-overs
For Kohli, IPL 2023 has been a tale of two bowling types.
He’s been outrageously good against pace, having smashed 114 runs in 67 balls at a SR of 170.15. He’s yet to be dismissed by a pacer this season.
However, versus spin it’s been a real struggle for the 34-year-old, who’s scored 50 runs in 44 balls at a SR of 113.64, being dismissed twice.
As much as Kohli’s quick starts against pace have benefited RCB up-front, the side has also been plagued by his inevitable slow-down against spin in the middle-overs.
Against LSG, he flew in the powerplay (42 off 25 balls) as RCB posted 56/0 off six but he slowed down in the 7-15 phase against spin, amassing just 19 off 19. Whether the slow-down was the reason for RCB’s defeat is debatable, but undeniably the drop in pace is not ideal, especially on very good batting surfaces.
Come Saturday, RCB would love for Kohli to begin the same way he did against LSG, but they might just want him to ‘hit out or get out’ against DC’s spinners, Kuldeep and Axar, rather than just occupying the crease without keeping the scorecard ticking.
Who goes out for Hasaranga?
Wanindu Hasaranga has joined the RCB camp and is expected to walk into the starting XI right away. The question for RCB is who misses out — Parnell or Willey.
Willey adds more batting and is potent with the new ball when it swings, but Parnell’s showing on debut against LSG might have just swung things in the South African’s favour. He first accounted for the wickets of both Hooda and Krunal in the powerplay but crucially bowled a very good over at the death to keep RCB in the contest.
Considering he has more pace and is more reliable at the back end, the Reds might lean towards picking Parnell, particularly with the other seamers struggling in the 16-20 phase, big time.
Like always, the Chinnaswamy Stadium has been a paradise for batters this season. The batters here have scored runs at a scoring rate of 10.1 and an average of 38.4, while a wicket has fallen every 22.9 deliveries.
In the bowling department, the spinners have had it rough. They’ve averaged 52.4 while going at an ER of 10.1. The pacers, too, have travelled, but they’ve comparatively fared better: an average of 32.7 and an economy of 9.7.
Expect a lot of runs on Saturday.
> Anrich Nortje is yet to bowl the first over of an innings for DC this season, but there’s a good argument for him to do it on Saturday. Kohli and Faf average 13 and 16.5 against him respectively and have fallen to the speedster twice each. Kohli, in fact, has managed to strike at only 92.9 against the South African. Nortje has, by some distance, been DC’s best bowler this season and against a side that opens with Faf and Kohli, it’s imperative to keep things tight from ball one.
> Delhi hate facing leg-spin. This season, they’ve lost 11 wickets to leg-spin, the most by any side, and have averaged an appalling 11.2 versus the leggies. Since 2022, every single RHB in DC has been shockingly bad against leg-spin. So Hasaranga will be RCB’s trump card on Saturday.
But DC can potentially counter Hasaranga’s threat by promoting Axar to No.4 or even to No.3. For one, he is in the form of his life — 108 runs @ 168.8 SR this season; 54 off 25 in the last match — but he’s also been proficient at tackling leg-spin, striking at nearly 140 against leggies in the last two years.
Predicted XI and Team Combination
Hasaranga is back for RCB. Expect him to take the place of David Willey.
RCB Playing XI
Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis (c), Mahipal Lomror, Glenn Maxwell, Shahbaz Ahmed, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Anuj Rawat, Wanindu Hasaranga, Wayne Parnell, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj
For DC, Mitch Marsh is back and he should walk back into the XI. Considering Chinnaswamy is a small ground, and considering RCB have a leggie and a left-arm spinner, it might make sense for DC to play Rilee Rossouw in place of Mustafizur, given every bowler is likely to travel anyway.
DC Playing XI
Prithvi Shaw, David Warner (c), Mitchell Marsh, Manish Pandey, Rilee Rossouw, Lalit Yadav, Axar Patel, Abishek Porel (wk), Kuldeep Yadav, Anrich Nortje, Mukesh Kumar