Battle of the batting units – RCB vs KKR preview

It is only the second home game of the season, and the mood of the RCB faithful could not be any more somber. RCB has are yet to register anything on the points table except for a negative NRR, and to say that the performances have been underwhelming would be an understatement. On the other hand, RCB’s opponents for the next game, KKR, have been extremely impressive, with the team gelling really well as a unit. While RCB will want to salvage a win, and get off the mark on the points table, KKR will be looking for a win which would propel them closer to the top of the table. KKR sit in fourth position in the points table, as of this writing – mind you, they would have played a game less than the other seven teams by the time take the field against RCB. The two teams could not have had more contrasting starts to the season.

Recent head to head

KKR were, simply a better team than RCB in the last season. In both the games, despite RCB managing to put up 170+ scores, KKR chased down the score with ease. While in the away game, it was Narine who scored a quick fire half century, in the home leg, it was Lynn who produced the goods at the top. In both the games, the damage was done at the top, and RCB were never really in the game after the initial onslaught.

Expected lineups –

RCB’s number one priority is to sort out the bowling attack. Till this point, the management has retained confidence in Umesh, Saini and Siraj in the pace department. While all of the above are individually talented bowlers, they all don’t necessarily complement each other, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that a Tim Southee or a Nathan Coulter-Nile need to find a place in the eleven. Of course to accommodate Southee would mean sacrificing an overseas player from the top 7, and one of Hetmyer or Moeen Ali could face the axe. Neither player has had any impact on the team’s performance thus far, and possibly Moeen could get the nod ahead of Hetmyer, given that he can contribute with the ball as well.

RCB : Parthiv Patel, Moeen Ali, Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers, Marcus Stoinis, Akshdeep Nath, Shivam Dube, Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal

KKR : Chris Lynn, Sunil Narine, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill, Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson

Strengths and weaknesses – RCB

Perhaps the most damning aspect of RCB’s campaign in IPL 2019 has been the inability to get the best out of each and every individual. Looking at a batting order consisting of Moeen Ali, Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers and Shimron Hetmyer, and one wouldn’t expect below-par performances in three of the four games played. The constant chopping and changing of the batting order does not help either. One glance at the teams performing well would seem to suggest that, each and every player has a clearly defined role – a trait which does not seem to amuse the RCB management. For once, the management needs to identify each player’s specific strengths, construct a game plan around them, and allow them time across games to come good in that capacity. At RCB, over the past two seasons, the constant has always been the lack of continuity in team selection, and the tentativeness in the performances on-field have been a reflection of the resulting shortage of confidence. 

Looking at the batting lineup, there are sufficient resources to cause damage to any opposition, but players look to be unfamiliar about what is being expected from them. The arrival of Marcus Stoinis lends a semblance of solidity to the middle order. If RCB are to have any chance of putting together a winning streak, the team will need to allow the top 4 to bat with freedom, without worrying about a collapse.

The bowling unit needs a leader, and hopefully Southee will be the solution to that problem. Yuzvendra Chahal has been hugely impressive in all the games, barring the forgettable afternoon in Hyderabad, and once again, will be expected to assume the responsibility of being the chief tormentor during the middle overs. Dearth of wickets during the powerplay has been a major concern for RCB, and the sooner Umesh Yadav finds his wicket-taking touch of 2018, the better. 

Opposition analysis – KKR

If there are issues aplenty in the RCB camp, KKR find themselves on the opposite end of that spectrum. In their first three games, KKR have had contributions from across the team, and their only loss has been inflicted through a super-over. In each of their games, KKR have managed to put up 180+ on the board, with multiple players coming good. The fact that one of their impact overseas player at the top in Chris Lynn has not made even played a meaningful innings, and yet the rest of the batting order has managed to aggregate formidable scores, is a testament to the quality in their batting lineup, and the sense of self-confidence that has been instilled in each player. Of course, having Andre Russell coming in to bat down the order does help the cause.

Of the two skills, the bowling has been the less impressive for the Knight Riders. Their pace bowling trio of Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson and Andre Russell is not the stuff of nightmares. In Narine and Kuldeep, KKR possess a world class spin duo. Having said that, Kuldeep’s form has not been anything to write about, with the chinaman bowler managing to pick up only two wickets, at an E/R of above 9 from the first three games. Narine, also has been nowhere near his best, and has so far conceded 55 runs from the 5 overs he has bowled in IPL 2019. Perhaps, there lies the chance for RCB.

Key player battles

Chris Lynn vs Umesh Yadav

Even though Lynn has looked out of sorts in this tournament, the Chinnaswamy pitch presents him with the perfect opportunity to strike a bit of form. Looking at the trend from previous years, it has been the opening duo of KKR which has managed to shut the door on RCB even before the latter could fathom a win. If RCB are to harbour any hopes of a victory, they will need to uproot the openers quickly, barring which another defeat could well appear on the horizon. For RCB, Umesh Yadav has the pace to trouble Chris Lynn. Even though spin might appear to be Lynn’s apparent weakness, RCB’s best bet in the powerplay would be Umesh Yadav, given Chahal has been the only attacking option in the middle overs.

AB De Villiers vs Kuldeep Yadav

At a moment of adversity the team looks at the experience in the dressing room to get them out of it. Who better for RCB than AB De Villiers. De Villiers has the ability to take the bull by the horns and turn the tide in RCB’s favour. Despite his world class stature, even a player of De Villiers’ ability has found it difficult to negotiate spin early in his innings – all three of his dismissals this season have been to spinners, and all three within the first ten balls of his innings. The way he manages to overcome Kuldeep and Narine – either by trying to play them out  or going on a counter-attack, could well decide the outcome of the game.

In Conclusion…

Only Mumbai Indians have ever managed to reach the playoff’s having lost their first four games of the season, and to their credit have done that on two separate occasions. RCB will need to take each game as it comes. A win on the board is all that matters at the moment, and will give the team something build on. KKR have been hugely impressive with the bat, but their bowling has left a lot to be desired.

Toss could play a crucial role in deciding the outcome of the game, as both the teams’ bowling has come under heavy fire. The chasing team could have a significant upper hand over their opponents, even more so on a ground like the Chinnaswamy. Even if KKR manage to score big, RCB have the ammunition to chase a total down, despite the recent failings. Even though the destination seems far, far away, there is still a long way to go in the tournament, and however rocky the journey may appear at the moment, a couple of wins is all it takes to make the path more bearable.