It might be the first IPL 4 clash involving two sides that have already made it to the playoffs. But when Royal Challengers Bangalore host Chennai Super Kings in the Sunday fixture at the M Chinnaswamy stadium, a lot is at stake for the teams.
Firstly, the winner will be guaranteed a top-two finish in the points table and a place in the first ‘qualifier’ – the shorter route to the title clash.
To top it is the Champions League T20 qualification, which in turn promises a big bounty in terms of participation fee and franchisee incentives, not to forget the exposure for the players in cricket’s own Club World Cup.
With Chennai enjoying a one-point advantage (18 points) over RCB (17), the latter is under pressure to deliver.
RCB’s fortunes in this edition have hinged on the batting might of Chris Gayle. The Jamaican’s first failure with the willow (a seven-ball duck) against Kings XI Punjab in their last encounter at Dharamsala ended in a 111-run drubbing for RCB, snapping their seven-match win streak.
RCB have the talent and batting prowess beyond Gayle and the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Saurabh Tiwary should prove that point from now on. Their performance will be crucial with the opponents obviously planning meticulously for Gayle’s early exit.
Chennai too had their batting worries despite S Badrinath’s purple patch and skipper MS Dhoni’s late charges had saved them on more than one occasion. But against Kochi Tuskers Kerala in their last encounter, it was Wriddhiman Saha who made his hard-earned opportunity count with a timely knock. Bangalore too would be eager for some of their young talents to take the centre stage just like the way Saha did.
The Royal Challengers bowling got a major fillip with the somewhat unexpected return of skipper Daniel Vettori after a short visit to his physician back home. The Kiwi has been phenomenal with his left-arm spin and in all likelihood will feature in the Sunday clash.
Another key bowling figure for RCB, pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, skipped the nets for the second consecutive day but team sources have confirmed that the left-arm paceman would be back in the eleven having recovered from an injury.
With homegrown talent S Arvind becoming the current leading wicket-taker for RCB (14 scalps), the think-tank shouldn’t be worried about the bowling combination with impressive Charl Langeveldt and Gayle set to contribute with the leather.
On the other hand, Chennai have less concerns in bowling department with the likes of Aussie pacer Doug Bollinger, offie R Ashwin and right-arm pacer Albie Morkel shaping up well towards the business end of the edition. But the team’s poor away record this season (two wins from six attempts) gives RCB genuine hopes in their ninth overall IPL clash with the honours equally shared as of now.
With the red-hot flavour of neighbourhood rivalry adding more spice to the contest, the evening showers hitting the city these days will not the deter the crowds from milling the venue.