The Royal Challengers Bangalore must have thought that they just needed to travel to South Africa to lift the Champions League trophy after they managed to rope in Jacques Kallis, Ross Taylor and Cameroon White.
Their initial performance must have strengthened that belief. They won both their practice games, and thrashed Guyana black and blue in the opener. It appeared then that they would be the first team to walk into the semis and they would do it without breaking a sweat.
Surprisingly, the script took a queer turn for them. The initial favourites are just one loss away from packing their bags as they face Highveld Lions in a virtual quarterfinal on Tuesday.
A loss here will not only send them home, but will also brighten up the possibility of none of the IPL teams making it to the semifinals again. With them and Mumbai Indians gone, Chennai Super Kings would be the only team left in contention. To make matters worse, Dhoni’s team too faces an obstacle in the form of Warriors.
And if both the Indian teams lose, questions about the standard of the IPL will get only shriller.
However, going purely by the look of the team one would still be tempted to put his money on the RCB. The RCB look, at least on paper, too good a side to lose three games on the trot.
While their batting looks daunting with the right mix of aggression and caution, their bowling has let them down in the two losses. South Australia simply toyed with their attack and the Mumbai Indians batsmen managed to get off the hook after looking down and out for the first 15 overs.
“We gave away too many runs in the last five or six overs. That is something we would like to address,” Kumble said after the loss to Mumbai.
And with the Wanderers track not known to provide as much help to bowlers as Durban did, the bowlers will certainly have their task cut out.
The Highveld Lions will, on the other hand, throw in whatever they have to win this match and advance to the semifinals. The side didn’t have many in the crowd supporting them when they faced the Mumbai Indians in the opener, but fine showing so far in the tournament must have won them their lost fan base.
“We could be a pretty intimidating side with the crowd behind us,” the Lions skipper had said after toppling the Mumbai Indians.