Mumbai Indians’ South African batsman Quinton de Kock bats during a practice session ahead of their IPL match against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Courtesy: Twitter
Mohammad Abdullah, Staff Reporter
All eyes will be once again on skipper Virat Kohli when Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) take on a high- flying Mumbai Indians (MI) in the IPL match in Dubai on Monday.
Kohli has been in the spotlight, both as batsman and captain. Owing to his poor form, Kohli has not contributed with the bat in the two matches for Bangalore.
In the last two matches his scores have been 14 and 1 against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab respectively.
The Sunil Gavaskar-Anushka Sharma Twitter row has further stirred the debate about the Indian captain’s form and leadership skills. Bangalore have never won a title, their best finish was in 2016 as runner-up. After losing their second match against a rampant Punjab, Bangalore and Kohli will feel the heat more in the crunch clash against a brimming Mumbai. The star-studded batting line-up of Bangalore, which features the likes of Aaron Finch, AB De Villiers, Kohli himself along with Padikkal were brought down to their knees by a disciplined Punjab bowling attack, losing the match by a margin of 97 runs.
Only four batsmen could manage to reach a double-figure mark, folding the innings for 109 in just 17 overs. Kohli was also not impressive in the field as he dropped the Punjab captain KL Rahul twice, who went on to score a 69-ball 132, breaking several records on his way.
Riding on Rahul’s marathon innings, Punjab posted a huge total of 206/3 chasing which was going to be an uphill task for a stuttering Bangalore. They crumbled under pressure like a stack of cards.
Bangalore’s head-to-head record with Mumbai is also not impressive. Mumbai have always been more dominant, winning 16 of the 25 matches.
Bowling is another area of concern for Bangalore. The search for a good death over bowler still does not seem to have ended. Their pace spearhead Dale Steyn conceded 57 runs in four overs and Umesh Yadav went for 35 in his three overs. Both leaked a whopping 92 runs combined in seven overs, failing to pick up any wicket.
Chris Morris, whom Bangalore claimed to be their specialist death over bowler ahead of the tournament, is yet to play a game. He is likely to replace Umesh Yadav against Mumbai.
Yuzvendra Chahal and Devdutt Padikkal’s forms have been the only positive for Bangalore. Chahal triggred a dramatic collapse of Hyderabad to spin his team to their first win after Padikkal smashed a quick-fire 42-ball 56.
On the other hand, Mumbai are brimming with confidence after bouncing back to beat Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) by 45 runs in their second game. Mumbai lost their opener against Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
Kohli’s counterpart Rohit Sharma will not be under pressure as he led from the front in their victory over Kolkata with a fiery 80 off 54 deliveries.
Apart from the captain, Quinton De Kock, Saurabh Tiwary and Surya Kumar Yadav also look to be in sublime touch.
All the top four batsmen have delivered in either of the two matches. With hitters like Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard, Mumbai boast of a very strong batting line-up.
Mumbai’s bowling has been weakened by the absence of Lasith Malinga, who pulled out of the tournament due to personal reasons, but they seem to have learnt to manage without the Sri Lankan great, who is also the highest wicket taker in IPL. James Pattinson, Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult along with Pollard will form the pace battery. All of them picked up two wickets each against Kolkata. Rahul Chahar and Krunal Pandya are likely to take care of the spin department.
Meanwhile, Zaheer Khan, Director of Cricket Operations at Mumabi Indians, dropped a hint that Hardik can also test the waters with a little bowling in the match.
Hardik has not bowled so far as he suffered a back injury last year and has been advised not to exert his body too much.
“We are all expecting him to bowl. He can change the complexion of any game of with his bowling. We have to take care of his body also. We are in talks with our physio. We are looking forward for him to bowl,” said Zaheer.
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