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Two teams out for redemption – RCB V MI preview

The first home game of the season for Royal Challengers Bangalore, and they find themselves up against another heavyweight of the league, Mumbai Indians. Royal Challengers Bangalore will be looking for a quick turnaround in fortunes, following a below-par batting performance which saw the team crash and burn against their arch-rivals from south, Chennai, in the season-opener. Mumbai on the other hand were also handed a beating at the hands of Delhi Daredevils. Both the teams will be looking at the game as an opportunity to get off the mark on the points table. The game is certain be an interesting watch, with the captaincy skills of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma again in focus.

Recent results

In the corresponding fixture previous year, RCB on the back of two Kiwis excelling at the death, Colin De Grandhomme first with the bat, then Tim Southee with the ball, managed to pip Mumbai in a crucial fixture. The telling contribution though, came courtesy of Umesh Yadav, who ripped through the Mumbai top order with a fiery spell, which saw the backs of Surya Kumar Yadav and Rohit Sharma off consecutive deliveries. In the away fixture last season, RCB were hammered by the Mumbai Indians by 46 runs, despite captain Kohli’s valiant 92.

Expected lineups – 

RCB : Parthiv Patel(WK), Virat Kohli(C), Moeen Ali, AB De Villiers, Shimron Hetmyer, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Tim Southee, Navdeep Saini, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal

MI : Quinton De Kock(WK), Rohit Sharma(C), Surya Kumar Yadav, Yuvraj Singh, Kieron Pollard,  Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Mitchell Mclenaghan, Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah, Mayank Markande

Strengths and Weaknesses – RCB

As was evident in the first game of the season against CSK, the RCB batting lineup still lacks a bit of chemistry, with batsmen yet to get familiarised with their respective responsibilities. Even with reinforcements in the middle order, the batting lineup looked brittle against spin. Having said that, the CSK batting unit which was assembled to thrive in such conditions could not score freely either, meaning all the blame cannot be placed on the batsmen. Expect some of the issues to get papered over, as the team returns to familiar conditions at the Chinnaswamy, which will offer the batsmen a much more conducive environment to play their shots with freedom.

The only selection headache with the bowling seems to be the choice of the third seamer after Tim Southee and Umesh Yadav. While Navdeep Saini was impressive in his role as an out-and-out quick, used as a wicket-taking bowler, Mohammed Siraj carried the weight of bowling at the death in 2018. If RCB are to pick Saini, the death bowling would carry a weaker look, with one of Umesh or Saini having to partner Southee during that period. While Umesh’s output was hugely underwhelming at the death, with Saini RCB will be entering untested waters at this level. Although Siraj’s addition would resolve the death bowling issue to some extent, the ability to control the middle overs could be diminished as RCB will have to relinquish an impact bowling option in Saini to make way for the former.

Opposition analysis – MI

Mumbai boasts a strong batting lineup, with impact all-rounders all the way down to no.8. Rohit Sharma deciding to open the batting this year, could possibly solve their long-standing opening woes. RCB will also have Quinton De Kock to contend with at the top, who swapped sides pre-season. The middle order, even though it was impressive in the opening fixture, could become a cause for concern, with MI relying on the experience of Pollard and Yuvraj to carry the team through – both of whom have had issues against quality pace bowling previously.

The MI bowling conceded 213, but not much can be read into it as Delhi mainly had the single-handed efforts of Rishabh Pant to thank, who took them to an above-par score. There still appears to be a cloud over Jasprit Bumrah’s fitness, but him having joined up with the squad in Bangalore seems to suggest that the Indian pace spearhead will be fit to play against Bangalore. With Malinga possibly returning to the fold, MI will have a formidable bowling attack consisting of the pace trio of Bumrah, Malinga and McClenaghan. One area of concern for MI could lie in their spin bowling department, with the inexperience of Markande, and Krunal Pandya having to bowl during the middle overs.

Key player battles

Virat Kohli vs Malinga and Bumrah

If Mumbai are to break the back of RCB’s batting, much will depend on the MI pace troika’s exploits in the powerplay. With Virat opening the batting, much will depend on him to anchor the innings for Bangalore, allowing the attacking batsmen in the middle order to express themselves. The battle between Virat and the Mumbai pacers could possibly set the tone for the innings. If Virat manages to play through the powerplay, MI could be staring down the barrel of a huge score, with RCB’s middle order facing the soft spot of MI bowling – their spin attack.

Rohit Sharma vs Umesh Yadav

Rohit Sharma opening the innings, allows him to adopt an approach which he is accustomed to with India – playing the anchor. If Sharma manages to play past the opening bowling onslaught of Southee, Saini and Umesh, he could potentially be a threat for the rest of the innings. The way Umesh Yadav and Navdeep Saini, if picked, operate against Sharma will be a fascinating watch. Snare away Sharma’s wicket, and RCB could have an opening to run through the MI batting order. Let Rohit settle down, and he will punish RCB later on.  The opening salvo could possibly define the course of the innings.

In conclusion…

The Chinnaswamy looks to have returned to its reputation as a batting paradise, as more than 380 runs were scored in the recent India V Australia T20 international at the venue. MI and RCB will enjoy playing on a surface, which favours six hitting. The toss could play a crucial part, as there will be uncertainty about what a par score could be on the Bangalore surface, and the pressure will well be on the team batting first to assess and set a competitive score to defend. The team batting second will have a clear advantage, as they can pace their innings through the chase, and could subject the opposition bowling to pressure.

Two of the biggest names in not just Indian cricket, but world cricket in limited overs, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma will be the cornerstones of their respective teams’ success in this game and the season. Both the teams could find themselves a bit short during the middle overs with their bowling. Thus, despite both teams consisting of big hitters throughout their lineup, the game could well swing the way of whoever comes on top from the powerplays.