As Kohli-de Villiers threat looms, Gujarat Lions bank hopes on McCullum

  • Kushal Phatarpekar, Hindustan Times, Rajkot
  • Updated: Apr 25, 2016 01:33 IST
Brendon McCullum of Gujarat Lions plays a shot agianst SRH during their IPL match in Rajkot. (PTI Photo)

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) head into the game against Gujarat Lions with premier batsmen Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in ominous touch. The duo has been consistent since the start of the tournament, which has made up for Chris Gayle’s two failures.

By contrast, Gujarat Lions have had to depend on opener Aaron Finch to get them over the line. Skipper Suresh Raina did click in the previous match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, but his knock went in vain with no one else to support him.

Thus, Gujarat will need all the firepower they can muster when they face RCB on Sunday.

In Brendon McCullum, Gujarat have the perfect candidate. However, the explosive Kiwi batsman has had a subdued start to the season. He scored 49 against Pune Supergiants in his second match, but it was hardly the kind of innings he is known to play.

The 34-year-old, who retired from international cricket ahead of the World Twenty20, was expected to be the main aggressor for Gujarat with the bat. Gujarat have won three games, but each has been due to solid performances from Finch. If McCullum can complement his opening partner, that would give skipper Raina the confidence to come in next and push home the advantage.

In the previous game against Sunrisers, Gujarat failed to hit a single six. Raina, who came into bat with his side in trouble, could not afford to play expansive shots. With Finch and McCullum both falling cheaply, there was no spark to the innings and the small total didn’t pass muster.

For RCB, Kohli and de Villiers have complemented each other perfectly. In the four games, either of them, or both, have delivered. Both have scored three half-centuries each.

Finch, with three half-centuries, has been Gujarat’s biggest asset. However, RCB’s weak link has been their bowling, which has struggled when the batsmen have not played the opposition out of the game. The hosts would thus hope McCullum cuts loose and helps cash in on RCB’s weak area.

Gayle yet to return

RCB opener Chris Gayle is unlikely to play on Sunday. The Jamaican, who had flown home to be with his partner for the birth of their daughter, was expected to rejoin the team ahead of the clash, but had not reached Rajkot till Saturday evening, an RCB official said. He was expected to be away for just two games.

Gayle was expected to join the squad for their flight from Mumbai to Rajkot, but didn’t. He could land in Rajkot on Sunday morning, but with a 4pm start, the team management is unlikely to take a risk by playing him.

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