BENGALURU: Prior to Royal Challengers Bangalore’s first game this season, captain Virat Kohli said this was ‘our most balanced side ever’. After the first round of games, it appeared Royal Challengers had the most unbalanced XI among all teams: a star-studded top four, followed by an untested middle order and a bowling attack lacking penetration. Kolkata Knight Riders chipped away at that top four and then romped to a four-wicket win on Sunday.
Back home, Royal Challengers need to achieve two things with immediate urgency: find their best team balance and regain a home-ground advantage. On a relaid pitch that favoured spinners, Royal Challengers won only one game at the Chinnaswamy Stadium last season.
Kings XI Punjab, on the other hand, has laid out their template for this season: using spin at various points of an innings to stifle opponents and staying aggressive with the bat. It worked in their tournament opener, against Delhi Daredevils, but there are also holes to plug, such as Yuvraj Singh’s form: he laboured to a 22-ball 12.
Also, considering the relative ease with which finger spinners are handled in modern-day T20 cricket – Kings XI have two in R Ashwin and Axar Patel – and with death-overs specialist Andrew Tye being taken for 38 runs in four overs, there aren’t many fall-back options. Against one of the better batting teams in the IPL and with the small dimensions of the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the margin of error for Kings XI is little.
- Compared to pace, Yuvraj Singh has struggled against spin in the IPL since 2015. He has scored 222 runs off 219 balls against the slow bowlers, at a strike rate of 101.4 and a dot-ball percentage of 50.2. Against pace, he has scored 526 runs off 369 balls, with a strike rate of 142.6.
- The average score batting first at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium last year (142) was 32 runs below the average overall score (174) in the IPL at this ground.
- AB de Villiers does not have a strike rate below 150 against any form of bowling. Virat Kohli has a strike rate under 125 against left-arm pace, right-arm off spin and left-arm orthodox spin.
- Aaron Finch has joined the Kings XI squad after his wedding and could slot in the opening position in place of Mayank Agarwal. Chris Gayle and KL Rahul also return to the home ground of their former franchise.