What's got Bangalore going?
Royal Challengers Bangalore have been the team to beat in the IPL thus far, recovering from an early setback to win four games on the trot - and all in convincing fashion. A look at the factors behind their winning streak.
Bangalore have gone unchanged in the last four games, and a stable attack has won them three of those. Bounce, swing, turn, pace, each variation has played its part. Dale Steyn - he played just three games last season - has led the attack, consistently clocking 150 kmph and ruffling the batsmen with fiery pace and unsettling bounce. Praveen Kumar, at the other end, has been economical and thrived on movement while R Vinay Kumar has backed them up with frequent breakthroughs once the restrictions have been lifted. Anil Kumble, though, has been the best of the lot, conceding just 5.09 an over for his five wickets.
The seamers, in Bangalore especially, have been aided by sporting tracks, a deviation from the trend in the inaugural IPL. The carry to the keeper has been excellent, the bounce competitive and the swing and movement encouraging. In a format conceived for the big shots, the sight of ball beating bat more often than in the past has been a welcome development.
Last year, the quartet bagged 33 wickets at 34.57; this year they've already grabbed 23 at 21.21. There has been an element of ruthlessness in the way Bangalore have gone about their previous two victories, skittling out Rajasthan for 92 and choking Chennai in their chase.
Bangalore's most successful bowler last year has been the most aggressive captain in this edition. His strategy to get his fast bowlers to dig in bouncers at Indian batsmen has worked wonders; even Vinay Kumar rapped Yusuf Pathan on the helmet in his team's rout of Rajasthan Royals. He's often started out with two slips, set attacking fields and - like against Chennai Super Kings with Hayden still batting - not hesitated to bring himself on in the first six overs. His leadership has been inspiring, and the team has not let him down.
A full and fit squad
While most IPL teams have been hit by injury - Rajasthan and Chennai have been particularly badly hit - Bangalore have all their key players fit and in form. Their overseas players are also fit, in form and on their way: Kevin Pietersen, among the runs in Bangladesh, and Cameron White, who made 89 and led Victoria to a win in the Sheffield Shield final. Ross Taylor will join the squad upon the conclusion of the New Zealand-Australia series.
Jacques Kallis had a disappointing first IPL, averaging 18.09, followed it up with three half-centuries in the second and now has repeated the feat in just five games. His dismissal against Chennai on Tuesday was his first in the tournament, and his solidity at the top has allowed the rest of the batsmen to fulfill their roles. Manish Pandey, who hit the limelight with a blazing century last year, has continued in similar vein, supporting his partner in three 50-plus stands.
Building on the efforts of the pair has been Robin Uthappa, who had a miserable second season, where he averaged 15.90 with repeated failures while opening. With an approach to batting ideally suited to Twenty20 cricket, Uthappa has altered the course of two Bangalore games this season in the matter of an over. Sreesanth was smashed for 25, which propelled Bangalore ahead in their big chase against Punjab, and blasted 24 off L Balaji to help set a target which proved too much for Chennai.
Bangalore's success has led them to being one of the best-followed teams in the tournament, and the upswing in fortunes has had an effect on fans in their home city. The Chennai fixture was a near-sellout, and all the games played at the Chinnaswamy Stadium have seen good fan moments. The effect has been to lift the team - and they must hope the momentum remains now that Bangalore hit the road for a few days.
Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo