Venue: Holkar stadium, Indore
Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. KL Rahul and Chris Gayle.
All of them played for the same team in the Indian Premier League not too long ago. Now, in perhaps a missed opportunity by Royal Challengers Bangalore, that’s not the case anymore. On Monday, the two pairs will take each other on, and how they fare could well decide the fate of yet another crucial encounter as the league stage approaches its end. If Saturday’s clash between Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders at the same venue is any evidence, the bowlers will more or less only be restricted to being bowling machines.
The short boundaries and a belter of a pitch make Holkar stadium a nightmare for bowlers, and it could once again boil down to how the power hitters on both sides fare. With both the bowling units largely comparable, the onus will once again be on the big batsmen.
Nobody bigger than Gayle, perhaps. The earlier time Kings XI Punjab took on Bangalore in this year’s IPL, the big Jamaican did not feature in the XI. Now is his opportunity to show Bangalore what they’ve missed, and he will be raring to have a go at his former franchise. The ever dependable and consistent Rahul too will have a point to prove against his ‘home’ side.
Bangalore, meanwhile, will welcome the de Villiers-Kohli show that thumped Delhi Daredevils on Saturday, and hope that things aren’t too late for them. The two senior batsmen have been among the runs in the tournament but haven’t fired together, and that’s one thing they corrected in the previous game. If they can continue that form, Punjab’s bowlers could have another forgettable night.
But both sides need the support actors to come to the party. The likes of Parthiv Patel and Mandeep Singh for Bangalore, and Karun Nair and Mayank Agarwal for Punjab. The key on such small grounds is to keep going for the big hits even if wickets fall – as Kolkata did successfully – and for that to happen, the teams will need the others to step up.
And now to the bigger picture – the points table. Bangalore are seventh, with just eight points and a negative net run-rate, and will need to win each of their three games, and win them big. Tough ask, but who knows? Punjab are third with 12 points from 11 matches, but have been on the slide having lost four of their last five. They’ll want to arrest that quickly, or will be in danger of surrendering a season that promised so much in the earlier parts.
Played: 21. Punjab: 12. Bangalore 9.
Head-to-head record in Indore
Played 1. Punjab 1. Bangalore 0.