‘Lions’ face the ‘Royal Challenge’ in the first qualifier at Bengaluru : Gujarat Lions (GL), who made their debut in the edition of IPL, have really performed very well in the league stage under the stewardship of the vibrant skipper, Suresh Raina.
Having won 9 out of the 18 games played, they sit pretty at the top of the Points Table with 18 points to their credit and a -0.374 Net Run Rate.
Raina, who has featured in 145 matches since the first edition of IPL, has an accumulation of 4,096 runs at an average of 34.13 with 100* as his best score. He also has 28 half centuries to his credit.
However, in the ongoing tournament, featuring in 13 games, Raina has scored 397 runs at an average of 33.08 with 75 runs as his best. This he scored against Run Risers Hyderabad and his innings was instrumental in GL notching up 135 runs for the loss of 8 wickets in 20 overs. However, this knock came in a losing cause.
Though the numbers does not definitely define the explosive batsman that Raina is, he actually led the new team very efficiently and has been instrumental in GL occupying the numero uno position.
The batting department of GL is bolstered by the existence of Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, Dwayne Bravo, Ravindra Jadeja and Dinesh Karthik, who all have chipped in with significant contributions in their team winning 9 matches.
James Faulkner, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shivil Kaushik, Dwayne Smith, Dwayne Bravo have provided ‘fire power’ to their bowling department. Bravo particularly has come out very well during the ‘death overs’ and has been instrumental for some of the wins.
GL also have an untested Dale Steyn and Raina might just want to unleash him on the opposition in the knockout stage.
On the other hand, Royal Challengers Bangalore, who were languishing at the lower half of the table, by dint of sheer grit and determination of their young, energetic and enthusiastic skipper, Virat Kohli, have defied all odds and proved all critics wrong, by ending up second only to GL in the points table at the conclusion of the league stage.
RCB have 16 points to their credit, winning 8 out if the 14 games played and a +0.932 Net Run Rate.
Inspite of having the weakest bowling unit in the circuit, this kind of a performance was possible because of the way Kohli had adapted to the demands of the situation and has literally ‘led from the front’.
Accumulating 919 runs from 14 games at an average of 91.90, with 4 centuries and 6 half-centuries, in the ongoing tournament, he is miles ahead of the other batsmen in the fray. Kohli is also the holder of ‘orange cap’, thus far.
His highest score of 113 runs came in the encounter against Kings’ XI Punjab (KXIP), when he, alongwith Chris Gayle (73), put on 147 runs in 11 overs for the first wicket. This helped RCB to finish their innings with 211 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in 20 overs and also went on to win the game by 82 runs under the D/L method, on account weather interruptions.
Apart from the skipper, RCB boast of explosive batmen like Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, KL Rahul, Travis Head, Kane Richarson, Sarfaraz Khan etc.
The bowling, comparatively a weak one, is made up of Sreenath Arvind, Stuart Binny, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shane Watson, Samuel Badree etc. Mitchell Starc remains untested in this season and could surprise the opposition batsmen if he gets to play in the knockout stage.
The first qualifier of the season is to be played at M Chinnaswamy Stadium Bengaluru, the home turf of RCB. Quite evidently the home team will have advantage of the ‘crowd support’ also.
Talent being almost at equal levels in both the teams, it’s just the ‘’die hard’ attitude of Kohli might just about have a slight edge over the opposition.
Raina is also not far beyond as far as the ‘attitude’ is concerned. He can also do wonders on the ground and ‘turn the tables’ on the opposition.
The winner of this Qualifier I encounter would go straight into the final round. The loser, however, gets a second opportunity to make it to the finals, by playing against the winner of the Eliminator.
Having made it to the final round on two occasions but failing to clinch the title even once, RCB knows what it means to be there.
May the best team win.