RCB) have either been competitive in the
Indian Premier League or plain amateurish. Since the league’s inception in 2008, they have been runners-up thrice and made the playoffs an equal number of times, but otherwise they have perished in the league stages.
This season, they have been competitive, but it also has been a tournament of change. Skipper
Virat Kohli is set to relinquish the captain’s armband, unheralded Harshal Patel is now one of their premier bowlers, and Glenn Maxwell has had a watershed season.
More importantly, RCB have qualified for the business end of the tournament, and, unlike in past, with some ease. On the previous six occasions, it has largely been touch-and-go — backdoor entries and fortunes hinging on the fortunes or misfortunes of the other teams in the fray. This time, they have made the cut with two matches in hand.
For ardent fans looking for a sign that this just might be the year for a team that has promised much, but never won the trophy, that statistic alone could be enough to reach for the skies. However, while RCB has covered a fair distance, they do have some ways to go.
First up, they will be looking to move into second spot in the table which will give them two chances to qualify for the final. They take on Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday in their penultimate contest and finish their league engagements with a face-off against table leaders Delhi Capitals on Friday night
For now, the focus is the match against Hyderabad at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Dubai. The other team from the Deccan plateau lie at the bottom of the pile and are already out of the race for the top-4. But they will be looking to salvage some pride.
Kane Williamson’s men go into the match with just one advantage — past statistics. In the 18 ties between the sides, Hyderabad have won 10. Sunrisers won the Trophy in 2016 beating RCB on their home turf — the M Chinnaswamy stadium — by eight runs, but that was a long time ago.
This Hyderabad team are a faint shadow. Their batsmen have been woefully short of runs, their bowlers have been inconsistent. They have failed to click as a team.
On the strength of their three wins on the trot,RCB will start favourites. That said, RCB will be keen to sandpaper the rough edges of their game in the build-up to their title chase. For starters, Kohli must regain his lost touch. Although he has been among runs, he has struggled to accelerate the scoring. His opening partner, Devdutt Padikkal, last season’s emerging player, has failed to convert starts and making amends will be on his mind.
AB de Villiers, whose batting position has varied throughout the season, hasn’t exactly set the stage on fire in his limited time at the crease. The gamechanger for them has been the big hitting Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell and RCB’s fortune in the middle-order will hinge on his form on the day.
The bowling unit, the team’s Achilles heel in the past, has come together nicely and the only trend RCB should buck is the constant chopping and changing.
Yet, if RCB have to seal second spot in the table, they will have to win their next two matches and then hope Punjab Kings beat Chennai Super Kings in their last league match on Thursday. Some things don’t change.