Bangalore hold edge in basement battle
May 12, 2009
Start time 12.30pm (10.30GMT, 16.00 IST)
Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders remain at the bottom of the table but, while Kolkata are almost certainly out of the tournament, Bangalore still have a chance of making the semi-finals. That alone should give them the edge going into the game. Bangalore's three-match winning streak has been rudely halted by back-to-back defeats to Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians but there are still bright spots in the campaign. Anil Kumble's captaincy has been very impressive and the South African connections - Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Roelof van der Merwe - have paid off. Not so the other overseas player they have picked in the XI, New Zealanders Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor must step up if Bangalore are to return to winning ways and harbour any serious ambitions of entering the top four.
For Kolkata, things can only get better. A defeat on Tuesday will end even a mathematical chance of making the final four, at which point it will be seen whether Brendon McCullum actually steps down from the captaincy, as he had said. There is still time, though, for Kolkata to test the qualities of their big-ticket signing, Mashrafe Mortaza, who has not got a single game so far.
Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)
Royal Challengers Bangalore: LLWWW
The batting still remains a poser for coach Ray Jennings, especially at the top of the order. The have tinkered with the opening partnership right throughout the tournament, which possibly has deprived them of the much-needed solid start. The only stand of note was the 69 posted by Shreevats Goswami and Jacques Kallis against the same opposition in Durban.
Kolkata Knight Riders: LLLLL
There simply isn't a specific area where Kolkata are lacking. Though parallels may be drawn with Bangalore about the opening combination, the batting in general hasn't been up to scratch. Add to this the lacklustre fielding and the lack of penetration from the bowlers, and you have all the makings of an ailing team.
Watch out for
McCullum v Kumble: A few bad decisions and poor shot selection have kept the Kolkata captain subdued for most of the tournament. His swatting Ashish Nehra off the second ball of the innings for a six in the match against Delhi perhaps was a reminder of the brilliant innings in the first match of the IPL last season, but he was then undone by a harsh lbw decision. The opposition might be the same from last time around, but Kumble has shown plenty of guile and application in his bowling in South Africa and could ensure McCullum's pyrotechnics fizzle out fast.
Bangalore would do well to employ the services of a Kolkata boy, Shreevats Goswami, to lend some solidity as one of the openers. Ryder is off the boil and Taylor continues to disappoint. Expect Praveen Kumar to return and lead the bowling attack along with Vinay Kumar, giving Kallis the option to run in first change.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: (probable) 1 Jacques Kallis, 2 Shreevats Goswami, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Rahul Dravid, 5 Virat Kohli, 6 Mark Boucher (wk), 7 Roelof van der Merwe, 8 Dillon du Preez, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Vinay Kumar, 11 Anil Kumble (capt).
David Hussey's return from Australia's series against Pakistan in the UAE augurs well for the limp batting line-up, though he did not feature in the last match against Delhi. Mortaza, Kolkata's prized purchase at $600,000, continues to warm the benches - a move which has the player and the fans stumped alike. With little at stake, it would be a good time to try something entirely new - the call is for foreign players with considerable international experience to ensure a couple of highs for Kolkata during the last lap.
Kolkata Knight Riders: (probable) 1 Brendon McCullum (capt), 2 Sourav Ganguly, 3 David Hussey, 4 Morne van Wyk, 5 Yashpal Singh, 6 Wriddhiman Saha, 7 Laxmi Ratan Shukla, 8 Ajit Agarkar, 9 Murali Kartik, 10 Mashrafe Mortaza, 11 Ishant Sharma.
Stats and trivia
- If it's a day match at the SuperSport Park, expect the team batting second to come out trumps. In the two early starts, Deccan triumphed over Delhi by six wickets while Rajasthan beat Bangalore by seven.
- The contrast is too stark - nine matches for McCullum this year have translated into 91 runs, a far shout from the 158 he scored in just the one match, last season's opener against Bangalore.
- Just to emphasize the opening-stand predicament for Bangalore. With the opening partnership ending on no-score on four occasions, the statistic is the worst among all teams in the competition. The stands in the 10 matches so far read: 0,0,0,6,0,69,2,24,10 and 23
It was a thriller last time around in Durban as Mark Boucher's cool head prevailed in a five-wicket victory off the penultimate ball of the match. McCullum smashed 158 off 73 balls to annihilate Bangalore by 140 runs in the opening game of the IPL last season. Kolkata won their home game at the Eden Gardens as well by five runs after Bangalore were restricted to 124 for 4 in 16 overs.
Judhajit Basu is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo