The early skirmishes over, the stage is set for some pitched battles as IPL 5 approaches its business end. Midway through the marathon round-robin stage, going into their return game on Saturday evening, Team Kolkata and Team Bangalore are on an even keel – nine points apiece, with both lodged in the top-four of the table.
That, though, is only half the story told. With seven of the nine teams crowding the upper tier – separated by just two points – the race to seal a berth in the last-four stage of the competition is going to get fiercer by the day.
Both Kolkata and Bangalore are coming off washed-out home games, so come Saturday evening, their first concern will be the weather. Another Nor’wester-induced abandonment is the last thing they would want.
Kolkata, in particular, have some catching up to do. Even this year, the perennial underachievers have allowed ‘lesser’ teams to walk away with the honours – a case in point being their failure to chase down Mohali’s modest 134 at the Eden. Then they were forced to split points with laggards Hyderabad on a wet and blustery Tuesday night, just two days after beating them in Cuttack.
The four remaining home games will thus be extremely crucial in shaping Kolkata’s future this season. The bad news is, all of them are potentially tough encounters, starting with the one against Bangalore on the morrow.
Gautam Gambhir’s boys will take heart from the fact that they demolished the strong Bangalore outfit in their first meeting at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. But that was Chris Gayle’s first appearance in IPL 5 . He has warmed up since and wreaked havoc at will.
With AB De Villiers also at his innovative best and Tillakaratne Dilshan firing against Team Jaipur five days ago, Bangalore have not been hurt by Virat Kohli’s lack of form.
Kolkata’s best bet to contain such an explosive line-up is to present a typically slow turner at the Eden, where breaking loose has always been a hazardous proposition. Of course there have been exceptions – who, for instance, will forget Gayle’s murderous 55-ball unbeaten 102 which made Kolkata’s total of 171/5 look ridiculously low last season? By and large, though, Kolkata have been well served by their bowlers.
It will ultimately boil down to the Bangalore batters’ firepower against Kolkata’s steady bowling.