Home and away, through batting and bowling, the Royal Challengers Bangalore have not been found wanting in a variety of circumstances. Sitting on top of the points’ table, the home team is perfectly placed to take on the Chennai Super Kings, who, even in the absence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, are favoured to make it to the final four.
Two editions of the tournament have taught the teams that momentum is crucial. While every match is a fresh game, and indeed a new opponent, teams that string together a sequence of victories are more likely to push for an early spot in the semifinals and then concentrate on fine-tuning various aspects of preparation.
The Royal Challengers know the value of putting together a run of wins, having plumbed the depths in past editions, only to fight back. In this season, the challenge ahead is to keep their form simmering at an acceptably high level, while allowing for enough in the tank to raise their game when needed.
The story so far has been one of dominance. Jacques Kallis, who came here with a burning desire to prove that he could translate Test and ODI performances into T20 form, has carved a niche for himself. Batting through the innings, is something few batsmen have been successful at in the IPL, but Kallis has shown there’s a place in the game for this method. What has helped his cause is the performance of young batsmen around him.
Manish Pandey has found ways to attack the fast bowlers early on. Unafraid to go over the top, and possessed with a clean swing of the bat when he wants to go across the line, Pandey has fired the Royal Challengers to quick starts, allowing Kallis to bed down. Robin Uthappa and Virat Kohli have shown the same sort of urgency, and this situational awareness has made the Bangalore batting look so strong that Rahul Dravid hasn’t even been needed so far.
This is the stranglehold Chennai will look to break on Tuesday. If the bowlers can pick up early wickets and put Kallis, and thereby Bangalore, under pressure, it will force a change of approach from the home team. How quickly they adapt in such a situation will ultimately decide how far they go in this edition.