Royal Challengers Bangalore have quite a straightforward task at hand when they take on Kings XI Punjab in the IPL clash at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Tuesday. They must win this game to remain in contention for a playoff spot. After six wins in as many games at home, Bangalore embarked on a tumultuous journey, winning just two of eight games on the road.
Bangalore have been masters at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, a fortress that visiting teams have failed to breach. After Kolkata Knight Riders played party-poopers on Sunday (May 12) in Ranchi, Bangalore are now left with no option but to win the remaining two games - against Punjab and Chennai Super Kings - at home if they fancy their chances of qualifying.
Currently with 16 points from 14 games, the reason for a last-minute scramble to make it to the top four for a side that boasts names likes Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli is quite baffling.
Given their formidable line-up, batting ought never to be a concern, though Bangalore have had their struggles, especially when they have travelled. Cheteshwar Pujara's return at the top of the order has augured well for the side. But the element of predictability in Bangalore's approach has been the over-reliance on Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers, who have delivered on most occasions when the pitch has been true but who have struggled on sluggish pitches like the one in Ranchi, where their stroke-making prowess has been stunted.
Bangalore's bowlers, however, have failed to fire in unison and that has resulted in a fair few losses. Ravi Rampaul, Vinay Kumar, Murali Kartik and Jaydev Unadkat - who bagged a five-wicket haul against Delhi Daredevils - have all been impressive, but only in patches and very seldom in tandem.
The loss against Kolkata has added to Bangalore's woes as they will look to turn the tides in this must-win encounter against Punjab, who themselves have been plagued by inconsistency throughout the tournament. With 10 points from 13 matches, Punjab are coming into the game after being outplayed by Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad in successive games. They have reached a point of no-return but pose a grave threat to Bangalore's chances.
Adam Gilchrist, the captain, has failed to fire this season, but if he does get his act together, things could look different for a team that has found a superb finisher in David Miller, who has added a new dimension to their batting. Shaun Marsh has been among the runs, and his form provides solidity to a relatively inexperienced line-up of Indian batsmen comprising Mandeep Singh, who has been dismissed in the last two games without scoring, and Rajagopal Sathish, slowly coming into his own.
In Praveen Kumar, Harmeet Singh and Sandeep Sharma, Punjab have an energetic and imaginative quick bowling unit. Sandeep, who made his IPL debut in Punjab's last game against Hyderabad, returned impressive figures of 4-21-3. Parvinder Awana, despite picking up wickets sporadically, hasn't fired on all cylinders while Piyush Chawla has been steady but not threatening, at times failing to capitalise on the early breakthroughs provided by Praveen.
When the two sides met earlier this season in Mohali on May 6, Miller single-handedly led Punjab to victory with his unbeaten 38-ball 101. Bangalore would look to avenge the loss in an attempt to extend their dominance at home and eventually inch closer to a playoff berth.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (capt), KP Appanna, KL Rahul, Arun Karthik (wk), Sheldon Jackson, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, Abhimanyu Mithun, Abhinav Mukund, Karun Nair, Pankaj Singh, Prashanth Parameswaran, Harshal Patel, Sandeep Warrier, RP Singh, Sunny Sohal, J Syed Mohammad, Saurabh Tiwary, Jaidev Unadkat, Vinay Kumar, Vijay Zol, Christopher Barnwell, Daniel Christian, AB de Villiers (wk), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chris Gayle, Moises Henriques, Andrew McDonald, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ravi Rampaul, Daniel Vettori.
Kings XI Punjab: Adam Gilchrist (capt, wk), David Hussey , Azhar Mahmood, David Miller, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Luke Pomersbach, Michael Neser, Bhargav Bhatt, Bipul Sharma, Gurkeerat Mann Singh, Harmeet Singh Bansal, Mandeep Singh, Manpreet Gony, Nitin Saini, Parvinder Awana, Paul Valthaty, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Manan Vohra, Aniket Choudhary, R Sathish, Sandeep Sharma, Shaun Marsh, Siddharth Chitnis, Sunny Singh.