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IPL 10, Match 31: Bangalore v Gujarat

Wisden India logo Wisden India 27-04-2017 Karthik Lakshmanan
© AFP

Just two wins from eight matches, and a washout at a crucial stage of the tournament. Royal Challengers Bangalore are in dangerous, yet familiar, territory in the Indian Premier League 2017 too. This time, though, even the most optimistic of their fans will know that time is running out and the team cannot afford another slip-up if it is to make it to the playoffs.

But neither can Gujarat Lions, Bangalore’s opponents on Thursday (April 27) at the same venue where rain played spoilsport on Tuesday – the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. Gujarat are reeling at the bottom of the table with just four points from seven matches and, like Bangalore, will need to get on a long winning streak to make it to the playoffs.

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Interestingly, the two sides get into the clash with the spotlight on different departments of their games. Bangalore were embarrassingly shot out for 49 by Kolkata Knight Riders in their last completed match, while Gujarat’s bowling attack has been a major cause of worry throughout the season. Gujarat have conceded more than 170 in six of their seven games. In the other game, Sunrisers Hyderabad completed a chase of 136 in 15.3 overs.

One only has to listen to the respective captains’ recent comments to understand the dire situation the teams find themselves in. Virat Kohli called the batting performance – or the lack of it – against Kolkata ‘hurtful’ and ‘unacceptable’. Suresh Raina nearly pleaded to his bowlers, saying ‘they have to do something, we can’t chase 190 all the time’.

It’s not time to panic yet, but both teams will do well to ponder over some key players’ roles. With Kohli and AB de Villiers missing the first few games, Bangalore’s batsmen have had to shuttle up and down the order and are clearly struggling to find rhythm. Mandeep Singh has just 65 runs from six innings, Shane Watson has 61 from five, while Stuart Binny is hardly used with bat or ball. In fact, no Bangalore batsman has scored more than 175 runs in the tournament so far.

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It hasn’t helped that the Chinnaswamy pitch is no longer a batsman’s paradise. Bangalore were known to intimidate teams at home with their batting might, but things have been quite different this year with the pitch being slow and the bounce being quite uneven at times. The batsmen haven’t adapted to the change, resulting in Bangalore winning just one of their three completed home matches so far.

On the other hand, Gujarat too are constantly in the hunt for a winning combination and have plenty to reflect on. They have a powerful batting unit with Brendon McCullum, Raina and Dinesh Karthik in good form, but have been let down by an inexperienced bowling group.

It hasn’t helped that their spin attack, led by Ravindra Jadeja, has looked toothless. The only silver lining in the bowling department for Gujarat has been Basil Thampi, although his wickets tally of two from five games doesn’t paint a picture of how well he has bowled, particularly at the death.

With the bowlers struggling, Dwayne Smith’s role in the XI could come under the scanner, especially since Aaron Finch opened the batting in the previous two games. Smith, who has tallied only 94 runs from six innings, has particularly struggled in the role of a finisher and could lose his spot to James Faulkner if the latter return after missing the previous game due to illness.

Faulkner is not just an able finisher with the bat, but will also provide some much needed experience to the bowling attack that now also has another seasoned player in Irfan Pathan, who has replaced the injured Dwayne Bravo.

They’ll need all that experience and more, for Bangalore’s batsmen are known to turn it around when it matters the most. Nobody knows it better than Gujarat themselves, for they will have vivid memories of Kohli and de Villiers bossing around with centuries in the league game last year.

Head-to-head record

Played 4; Bangalore won 3, Gujarat 1.

Head-to-head at the Chinnaswamy Stadium

Played 2. Bangalore won 2, Gujarat 0.

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