A royal and intriguing clash is in prospect when Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals meet in Bangalore on Friday. Both teams have eight points with Rajasthan higher-placed by virtue of a better run-rate and have a match in hand.
In their previous run-ins, Bangalore have won five and Rajasthan four. Last time they met in Bangalore, Rahane made an explosive, unbeaten 103 to steal the thunder from the likes of Chris Gayle, as Rajasthan posted a 59-run victory. It was a revenge of sorts for skipper Rahul Dravid, whom RCB had discarded in the auctions.
This year, he returns to his home ground on a more confident note as his team has been firing on all cylinders. Not just Dravid, it will be home-coming for all-rounder Stuart Binny and paceman Shanthakumaran Sreesanth. Binny plays for Karnataka, and would be watched by his dad Roger, who is an Indian selector, and hence would have more than a normal interest. Sreesanth, meanwhile, spent his initial years in Bangalore and had his schooling at the Florence School. But Bangalore, for a change, have been invincible on their home turf. They have won all four home games so far. As such, plotting their downfall will not be an easy task for Dravid and Co, who have lost only one of their five matches. Incidentally, Rajasthan’s away record is superior and they would like to keep the reputation intact.
While the ‘get Gayle, get RCB’ slogan has lost some of its meaning, Gayle still remains a irrepressible force. Moreover, they have an in-form Virat Kohli, the Orange Cap holder and AB de Villiers in fine nick. But the performance of the local players, except Vinay Kumar, is concerning. It is here that Dravid can rub salt on RCB’s wounds should he and Stuart Binny perform well.
Sreesanth, who didn’t play against Mumbai, might return. With the wicket being on the livelier side, Sreesanth would be itching to make the ball do all the talking, for a change. Overall, Rajasthan have some impressive performers. The Aussie trio of Shane Watson, Brad Hodge and Shaun Tait, West Indian Kevon Cooper and the domestic players like Siddharth Trivedi, Dishant Yagnik, Ajit Chandila, apart fromDravid, Binny and Sreesanth, make them a formidable unit. When evenly-matched sides contest, it will be a question of who would blink first.