PUNE: When Rising Pune Supergiant take on Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday, it won’t just be a contest between the fourth-placed team and the second last. Even though the sides are separated by two spots, they will be aware that inconsistent batting is what ails them both.
Bangalore, led by India skipper Virat Kohli, have failed spectacularly so far. From runners-up last time around to being almost out of the IPL with five games to go, they need to win all remaining games and depend on other results if they are to make it to the playoffs.
For that to happen, they need their superstars with the willow to perform. Last season, Kohli had topped the charts with 973 runs, AB de Villiers was third with 687.
But this year, only Kedar Jadhav is in the top 20, at 14th place with 208 runs from 8 games. Kohli is 23rd, Chris Gayle 24th while De Villiers is 27th. Injuries have also not helped the side, with the trio unavailable some time or the other in the competition.
It is a must-win game for the visitors and Pune all-rounder Rajat Bhatia added that they will do everything to ensure RCB don’t get an easy ride. “Their players are match-winners on a given day.
Currently, they are under pressure, with their big guns not performing. We have to capitalise on this and stick to our plans.”
Pune are slightly better placed with eight points from eight games. But their erratic displays with the bat have not helped matters.
Rahul Tripathi, who has 216 runs in six matches, has been the find of the season. Currently in 13th spot, he has a strike rate of 154.28. His fearless batting up top has ensured a fast start for Pune quite often.
However, apart from skipper Steve Smith (275 runs, 7th in the batting charts), no player has really been able to get going. MS Dhoni has mustered only 152 at a strike-rate of 120.63 with his only big contribution coming against Hyderabad. Even the usually dependable Ajinkya Rahane’s form has been a matter of concern.
There will be pressure on Ben Stokes, who didn’t play the last game against KKR due to a slight niggle, to prove he is worth the whopping price tag of Rs 14.5 crore.
He has been off-colour with the bat. Bhatia feels there is work still to be done. “T20 is very short and unpredictable. Each year, some team — be it with star names — suffers as you can see from the case of RCB.”
The MCA Stadium might be the best venue for either of the sides to get back their batting mojo. The ground has seen scores of 175+ in 6 of the last 8 IPL matches it has hosted.