Rajasthan’s all-win record at home in this IPL season will be severely tested on Monday, when they take on Bangalore at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. That will be Rajasthan’s eighth match, and as they approach the half-way stage, they would be happy with the way things have gone. Barring a few near-misses, Rahul Dravid’s bunch has done pretty well.
Interestingly, Rajasthan’s only away win has been against Bangalore, by a rather comfortable 59-run margin on April 15. Equations have changed since, with both Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers rocking for the Daniel Vettori-led side. There is a sense of solidity in the team, with Gayle leading the show. On Monday, they would want to pay back in kind.
Rajasthan, however, will be looking to keep their home run going. And they have their own arsenal to counter the Bangalore bombs. Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane have been giving the team good starts. The latter, in particular, has been in the form of his life. With a century and a 98, he remains on top of the run-getters’ list. That bit of statistics will be, however, challenged in the coming days.
Bowling is a concern for Rajasthan, which on paper is the weakest in the IPL.
They depend a lot on home-grown bowlers, like Amit Singh and Siddharth Trivedi. Even though they have been getting wickets, the Gujarat boys have been giving away too many runs in the death overs. If Gayle or De Villers are at the wicket at that stage, Rajasthan might have a tough job in containing them. Sreesanth is still nursing a toe injury and Shaun Tait continues to sit in the dugout, with other foreigners firing.
Owais Shah and Brad Hodge have delivered with the bat and Kevon Cooper has been useful whenever he has played. Brad Hogg is the only quality spinner that the team has.
So, where does Tait fit in? Johan Botha, despite his vast experience, might sit out again. Rajasthan could well bring back Ankit Chavan for Stuart Binny.
Bangalore, on the hand, have the likes of Zaheer Khan, Vinay Kumar, Muttiah Muralitharan and Vettori himself in the bowling line-up. But then, if Rahane and Shah get going, Bangalore’s attack stand to be neutralized.
The match will also be a reminder of Rahane’s ruthlessness, when he smashed six fours in an Sreenath Aravind over. That was before Gayle had joined the party with five sixes in the next game against Pune.
Although the Sawai Mansingh Stadium ground has a longer boundary, Gayle is not expected to be limited by that.