IPL: RCB start odds-on favourites (Preview)

Bangalore, April 10 (IANS) Defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders, coming off a big defeat, face a difficult task Thursday when they face hosts Royal Challengers Bangalore who are on an absolute high in the Indian Premier League (IPL) following their sensational win over Sunrisers Hyderabad here at the Chinnaswamy stadium.

Gautam Gambhir’s Knight Riders, though began their IPL campaign well with a convincing win over a tottering Daredevils before running into the confident Rajasthan Royals who exposed the hollowness of the Kolkata team’s batting by dismissing them for just 125.

This season, KKR have never quite looked the part, even granting that it is early days in the IPL with the title holders having played just two of their 16 league matches. While their batting has not clicked, the bowling seems to lack the bite and will be put to acid test on the morrow against the strong RCB line-up.

Yet, KKR may be justified in thinking they have an ace up their sleeve in off-spinner Sunil Narine. The West Indian has been the pick of the bowlers so far in the tournament and though he went for few against Rajasthan, the 24-year old Trinidadian could hold the key for Thursday’s game.

For RCB, the Super Over defeat in Hyderabad Sunday only galvanized the team into some soul-searching and with AB de Villiers having joined the squad after missing opening two games, the Bangalore outfit appear primed for more success.

Thus far, Chris Gayle, who carried his bat through in the first game while making 93 not out, and Kohli have been outstanding but the RCB bowling has never quite looked penetrative. The fact that they have not taken 10 wickets in any of the three games thus far speaks for itself.

Another factor that needs to be borne in mind is that RCB would be playing their fourth game in seven days with a trip to Hyderabad thrown in. By any yardstick, that is a punishing schedule and it remains to be seen how the players would stand up to playing matches every alternate day.

The RCB decision-makers have been talking about player rotation keeping in mind the length of the competition besides the huge amount of travel involved. However, with the team on a roll, it is doubtful they would opt for any change just for the sake of it.

The Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch has provided good carry and some help to the bowlers and if a similar surface is given for Thursday’s game, then the bet would be on RCB who have in-form batsmen and also a group of crafty bowlers familiar with the conditions.

KKR would need to play far better than they have thus far if they hope to put it across the confident RCB.

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