Part two of the Karnataka derby is here with KXIP lining up against RCB today. Although Punjab is now playing only KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal consistently, they do have a lot of ex-RCB players in their team including Chris Gayle, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh, and Murugan Ashwin.
We could finally be getting to see the big West Indian in action this season, but doubts still remain over his effectiveness. With Washington Sundar in such great form in the powerplays, can a 41-year-old, probably-not-match-fit Gayle be Punjab’s saviour? Then again, it is Sharjah, pretty much the perfect place for the ‘Universe Boss’ to get going. The pitch has slowed down considerably and with it, the run rates have fallen. But the boundaries remain of the same size, and even thick edges off Gayle’s bat could fly to the boundary.
Punjab is reeling after six defeats in their seven games and need an MI-esque comeback to stand a chance of qualifying. They have time and again found a way to lose from winning positions which leaves them zero margin of error from here on in.
RCB, after a patchy start, now has a settled squad, defined roles, and are on such a roll that their two heavy defeats seem like a distant memory.
KXIP won by 97 runs.
The current fortunes of these two teams could not be more different than what they were after their previous meeting. Since then, Punjab has been on a downhill slide, while RCB seem to be a be on mission to finally make it their year. Virat Kohli’s form has changed drastically too, after being criticized heavily for his two dropped catches in that game. Rahul had a splendid 132 in that game, taking apart RCB at the death. RCB’s death bowling has come a long way since then with the inclusion of Isuru Udana and Chris Morris.
If Gayle plays, who drops to no. 3?
KL Rahul is the tournaments leading run-getter, yet he has come under some criticism for his slow strike rate and deservedly so. Mayank Agarwal has scored almost as many runs, but at a much better rate. With their middle and lower middle order struggling with the bat, the start that Punjab get will be crucial. The current version of Gayle has a tendency to need a couple of overs to settle in before going big. A more aggressive player at the other end in Agarwal could be a better choice to open alongside him. That would leave the captain to drop down to number 3.
RCB’s fourth overseas option – Udana or Adam Zampa?
RCB has three pacers already in Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, and Chris Morris. On a slowing track in Sharjah, Shivam Dube’s gentle medium pace is also a good option to have. With four pace options, RCB might look at Adam Zampa instead of Isuru Udana. Even though Zampa has been on the expensive side, he could be a good option in Sharjah.
Glenn Maxwell – In or Out?
Glenn Maxwell has endured a torrid time in the IPL thus far, but most of the other overseas players haven’t fired either for Punjab. That might be the only reason keeping him in the team even after his constant disappointments this season. Jimmy Neesham could be a good option to have against an RCB side that could play two leg spinners, with the possible inclusion of Zampa alongside Yuzvendra Chahal. Atlhough one has to fear for Neesham if he is tasked with bowling to AB de Villiers at the death.
RCB probable playing 11 – 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Devdutt Padikkal, 3 Virat kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 Shivam Dube, 6 Washington Sundar, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Isuru Udana, 9 Navdeep Saini, 10 Mohammad Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
KXIP probable playing 11 – 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 KL Rahul, 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Mandeep Singh, 6 Jimmy Neesham, 7 Chris Jordan, 8 Krishnappa Gowtham,, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Ravi Bishnoi
With an 82-run win in their previous game, RCB have improved their net run rate. With the difference in the form and fortunes between themselves and their opponents for the day, Kohli and co. will be eyeing an opportunity to inflict another heavy defeat, and consolidate their NRR. RCB look good enough to be able to qualify to the playoffs comfortably, without needing to look at the run rates, but it could be factor in deciding which teams go to the first qualifier.