On the eve of the IPL’s opening match, the Royal Challengers Bangalore released a new anthem, which triggered a social-media backlash from fans who were angry that most of its lyrics were in Hindi rather than Kannada, the official language of Karnataka, the state the team is based in.
Apart from a handful of exceptions over the years, IPL teams have represented their local geographies in only the most tenuous of ways, and it’s made little difference, by and large, to the fans who support them. The irony of the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad containing only two Karnataka players usually goes unnoticed and unmentioned. But over recent seasons, one match-up has heightened the irony enough to make it a talking point.
KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, K Gowtham and J Suchith all play for Karnataka and for Kings XI Punjab, whose coach, Anil Kumble, is arguably Karnataka’s greatest-ever cricketer. Apart from all the cricketing subplots of Thursday’s game, therefore, there’s also Royal Challengers versus Karnataka to keep in mind.
To the teams themselves, only the cricketing subplots will matter. Two of them could be of particular importance. Do the Royal Challengers have enough lower-order firepower to remove the inhibitions of their top order, and if so, do the top-order batsmen trust that lower order enough? Do Kings XI have a death-bowling problem, and do they have solutions for it within their squad?
In the news
Chris Morris didn’t feature in the Royal Challengers’ opening game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, and their director of cricket operations Mike Hesson has clarified that the South African allrounder was nursing a side strain. He hoped Morris would be fit to play “in a game or two”, so it remains to be seen if he features against Kings XI.
Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul (capt & wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Karun Nair, 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Sarfaraz Khan, 7 K Gowtham, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Ravi Bishnoi, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Sheldon Cottrell.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Devdutt Padikkal, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Josh Philippe (wk)/Moeen Ali, 6 Shivam Dube/Gurkeerat Singh Mann, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Dale Steyn. 9 Umesh Yadav, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal.
The Royal Challengers’ use of Yuzvendra Chahal could revolve around where Glenn Maxwell bats. In all T20 cricket, Chahal has dismissed Maxwell five times in eight innings, while conceding 80 runs off 52 balls.
ALSO SEE: Kings XI Punjab v Royal Challengers Bangalore live score 24 September 2020
Ravi Bishnoi made an impressive IPL debut against the Capitals, tying down Rishabh Pant with his wrong’uns delivered from over the wicket and veering away from the left-hander’s hitting arc. The same weapon could come in handy against a right-hand batsman in Thursday’s game. In all T20 games since the start of 2018, Kohli has been dismissed by the googly three times in 32 balls, while only scoring 40 runs off them. Kohli’s strike rate against the legbreak (130.2) isn’t too worrying either if Kings XI want to deploy Bishnoi against him.
Stats that matter
Since the start of the 2019 season, the Royal Challengers (11.4) and Kings XI (10.5) have boasted two of the three worst death-overs (16-20) economy rates in the IPL, sandwiching the Kolkata Knight Riders (10.8). It clearly remains an issue for Kings XI – whose last three overs against the Delhi Capitals went for 57 runs – while the Royal Challengers didn’t have that facet of their game tested in their opening game thanks to the Sunrisers’ spectacular collapse.
Kings XI’s death-overs issues could come into even sharper focus against the Royal Challengers, three of whose batsmen – Virat Kohli (216.42), AB de Villiers (215.67) and Moeen Ali (215.09) – are among the top five batsmen overall since the start of 2019 (minimum 200 runs) in terms of T20 strike rates in that phase.
Two of those three batsmen, however, have lately been scoring slowly in the overs leading up to the slog. Since the start of the 2019 season, de Villiers (129.14) and Kohli (120.14) have low strike rates in the middle overs (7-15) of IPL matches. In that phase, Kohli has only hit boundaries once every 12.2 balls. Moeen (158.20), however, has a healthy middle-overs strike rate, and this could prompt the Royal Challengers to pick him ahead of Josh Philippe.
Among all batsmen with at least 200 runs in the middle overs since 2019, Mayank Agarwal (151.74) has the second-best strike rate in that phase behind Jonny Bairstow (157.04). KL Rahul is fifth at 138.69.
Rahul needs two runs to complete 2000 in the IPL. If he gets there in Thursday’s game, he will have done so in his 60th innings, becoming the third-quickest to the mark behind Chris Gayle (48) and Shaun Marsh (52) and the quickest Indian ahead of Sachin Tendulkar (63).
Dale Steyn is three wickets away from 100 in the IPL.
Kings XI is Yuzvendra Chahal’s favourite opponent in the IPL when it comes to wicket-taking. He’s taken 19 against them at an average of 16.0 and a strike rate of 12.4, though his economy rate of 7.8 is worse than it is against the Rajasthan Royals (5.7) and the Chennai Super Kings (6.9).
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