Ranchi: It will be a battle of captains as a formidable Chennai Super Kings led by wily Mahendra Singh Dhoni square off against a confident Royal Challengers Bangalore under an aggressive Virat Kohli in the second qualifier of the Indian Premier League, here on Friday.
The second qualifier promises to be a mouth-watering contest as both CSK and RCB will play out of their skin to secure their place in the all-important summit clash on Sunday.
The match will be a battle of leadership skills between India’s limited overs and Test skippers as the tactics of Dhoni and Kohli will be put to test.
But just going by past record, CSK will definitely start as favourites against RCB.
On both the occasions the two teams met earlier in this edition of IPL, CSK prevailed over RCB. Dhoni’s men defeated RCB by 27 and 24 runs, respectively in the league stages of the tournament.
But it is present form and not records that win matches and RCB have a slight edge over CSK on this front.
CSK’s morale got a beating in the first qualifier where they lost by 25 runs to Mumbai Indians but the former champions hardly have any time to ponder on that loss and need to get their acts together quickly if they wish to enter the final of the Twenty20 tournament for a record sixth time.
CSK are the most successful team in the history of IPL, having won the title twice in succession (2010 and 2011) and entering the summit clash five times so far.
But it would be easier said than done for CSK to upstage RCB and the Dhoni-led side would need a collective effort from its batting department to give itself any chance.
Their highest run scorer Brendon McCullum’s departure seems to have hit the team badly as CSK’s success this season mostly relied on a good start from the flamboyant Kiwi batsman.
McCullum left for national duty after the league stage and CSK felt his absence right away in the first qualifier against Mumbai Indians. Chasing a formidable 187-run target in the first qualifier, CSK fell short by 25 as they were bowled out for 162.
Faf du Plesis, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo all got starts before giving away their wickets.
Another thing that hurt CSK badly was lack of partnerships and come tomorrow the team would bank on the likes of Dwayne Smith, McCullum’s replacement Mike Hussey, Du Plessis, Raina, Dhoni and Bravo to fire in unison to give themselves any chance.
The bowling department, too, needs to pull up its socks after having been taken to task by Mumbai batsmen the other day.
Left-arm pacer Ashish Nehra and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin live up to their reputations but they didn’t get support from other colleagues like Pawan Negi, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohit Sharma and Bravo.
A batting heavy RCB, on the other hand, would be high on confidence after the thumping win over Rajasthan Royals in the eliminator on Wednesday.
RCB thrashed Royals by 71 runs in a one-sided affair to set up a clash against CSK in the second qualifier.
After posting a formidable 180 for four, RCB packed up Royals for just 109 runs.
In big-hitting Chris Gayle, Kohli, AB de Villiers, Mandeep Singh, Dinesh Karthik among others, RCB have a strong batting line-up.
In fact, De Villiers (512 runs) and Gayle (450 runs) are two of the three batsmen (Shane Watson of Rajasthan Royals being the other) to have struck a century in this edition of the IPL.
RCB’s batting strength can be gauged from the fact that even though Gayle and Kohli failed yesterday, still they managed to score 180.
De Villiers (66) and Mandeep (54) came to their side’s rescue by smashing quickfire half-centuries against Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday.
On the bowling front too, RCB has impressed all and sundry last night. Left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc has been phenomenal up front and he has been supported well by Sreenath Aravind, Harshal Patel and David Wiese.
Yuzvendra Chahal is RCB’s lone warrior in the spin department and the young leggie has shown his potential with the ball, picking up 21 wickets so far, third highest in the wicket-takers list.