Kings XI Punjab are the team to beat at the moment but Royal Challengers Bangalore, suddenly on a downward spiral, have many issues to sort out. Punjab have won four matches on the bounce to lead the table. Bangalore, on the other hand, have lost their last two matches and also suffered the ignominy of being bowled out for 70 against Rajasthan. And facing Punjab in such form can never be easy.
Yuvraj under the scanner
For Bangalore, Yuvraj Singh is fast turning out to be a major cause for concern. The team management walked the extra mile in the auction to have the left-hander because “skipper Virat Kohli wanted him”. The Rs 14 crore bid made the 32-year-old the highest paid player of IPL 7, but he’s yet to live up to the billing. His poor run with the bat began well before this IPL — at a far more crucial stage, in fact — during the World T20 in Bangladesh. Then, his laborious 34-ball 31 against Kolkata was one of the reasons why Bangalore lost from a winning position.
Another failure — three off seven balls against Rajasthan — followed. To make matters worse, Punjab have the likes of Ashes hero Mitchell Johnson and in-form leg-spinners Karn Sharma and Amit Mishra. Johnson, however, will be Yuvraj’s primary worry considering the Aussie quick made life miserable for Yuvraj during India’s home ODI series against Australia last year. Time for another round of chin music?
Spotlight on Akshar
Akshar Patel is not a show-stopper like his team mate Glenn Maxwell, but the 20-year-old left-arm spinner has played his part brilliantly in Punjab’s success. At 5.75, he has the best economy rate for a spinner in the tournament and has also picked six wickets. In the first three matches, Patel had big totals to bowl with, but the way he choked the Kolkata middle-order, giving away just 16 runs in his four overs and accounting for Chris Lynn and Piyush Chawla in the process. He was impressive, to say the very least. But bowling to Virat Kohli, arguably the best batsman in the world today, will be a different challenge.
The Gayle factor
Ahead of the their match against Kolkata, the Bangalore camp appeared to be very positive over Chris Gayle’s availability. The Jamaican opener was said to have recovered from a sore back. Yet, he didn’t play. He missed the next match against Rajasthan as