Royal Challengers Bangalore will be determined to pick up where they left off in the first round of the IPL 2021 when they meet a struggling Kolkata Knight Riders in match 31 to be played in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
However, irrespective of the result of the match, the limelight will be on Virat Kohli, who after letting go T20 captaincy of the national team, has decided to step down as RCB captain as well at the end of the season; bringing an end to his era of 9 years of leading the franchise.
RCB has been already forced to make four overseas changes before the resumption of the tournament, increasing the pressure on Kohli to prove his naysayers wrong. Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson, and Daniel Sam (all Australians), Finn Allen (New Zealand) were replaced by Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga (Sri Lanka), George Garton (England), and Tim David (Singapore).
However, the presence of crucial foreign players such as Glenn Maxwell (223 runs in seven games), AB de Villiers (201 runs), and all-rounder Kyle Jamieson (9 wickets) ensures that the outgoing players will not be missed.
Apart from Kohli (198 runs in seven games), Indian players have been crucial to RCB success so far including opener Devdutt Padikkal (195 runs) and spin combo Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar, who are self-driven to make a point following being ignored for the T20 World Cup squad. Pace duo Mohammed Siraj and Harshal Patel will carry the expectations of wickets as well, with the latter holding the purple cap after an outstanding 17-wicket haul.
KKR, on the other hand, will be looking to get back on track after five losses in seven games landed them in seventh place in the table. With new skipper Eoin Morgan at the helm, the Knights have struggled to build a name for themselves this season.
With only 92 runs in seven matches, the English captain has battled to justify his spot in the team, while his predecessor Dinesh Karthik has mainly underperformed with only 123 runs despite no extra responsibility of leading the team.
This means that Indian batters Shubman Gill, Nitin Rana, and Rahul Tripathi will have to score runs in the first 10 overs. While Gill’s consistency has been a question, the team’s top scorers, Rana (201 runs) and Tripathi (187 runs), have performed admirably.
Andre Russell and Shakib Al Hassan, the overseas all-rounders, will be expected to be match-winners instead of their inconsistent performances, especially when Pat Cummins is unavailable for the rest of the tournament. His replacementTim Southee will have large shoes to fill in; making fellow Kiwi pacer Lockie Ferguson important to the team.
Morgan and his team will continue to draw comfort from the fact that KKR have come back from such a low point to win the title in 2014, but RCB’s firepower is a reality that can’t be overlooked.