Despite leading the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s bowling charts this season, birthday boy Muttiah Muralitharan received a cruel gift on Tuesday. He was dropped from the XI against the Pune Warriors to play a batsman. The decision, bizarre given the team’s struggle to fill the fifth bowler’s
quota, did not hurt the team in the end, although there was no contribution by the replacement, T Dilshan. He went for plenty with the new ball and failed to make a mark with the bat.
Ironically, the arrival of RCB’s biggest match-winner seems to have upset the team that seemed balanced in their first match. With Chris Gayle at the crease, a storm is always brewing, as was proven during their two games that went down to the 240th delivery. However, with skipper Daniel Vettori and AB de Villiers taking up two more slots, Muralitharan, Dilshan and Andrew McDonald have been left to fight for the last foreigner’s spot.
For some odd reason, despite his reasonable returns in the opening match, McDonald is not being given a look-in. A genuine all-rounder, he even opens the batting in T20s and lends the RCB’s bowling much-needed depth. His pace bowling should suit the Mohali pitch, where Vettori’s side take on the Kings XI Punjab on Friday. The other international perfectly suited to the conditions is the man Gayle replaced last season. Having warmed the bench for all five matches, left-arm pacer Dirk Nannes is frustrated. “But you’ve got to come into this tournament with an air of patience,” said the Dutch-Aussie. “There are some good players and only four international slots, but injuries happen and changes are made, so eventually, everyone will get a go.”
Bringing in either McDonald or Nannes, though, would mean the man with 800 on his back will have to sit out.
Chopping and changing hasn’t been Adam Gilchrist’s style, with six players having figured in all five matches, and four others in four. But a hamstring tear has ruled the Aussie out of today’s match. “Any injury to a player is frustrating, but it is an opportunity for someone else to step in,” said Gilchrist.
That someone might be Nitin Saini. While David Hussey will lead, the rookie from Haryana is likely to don the ’keeping gloves. Gilchrist, though, remained non-committal about Azhar Mahmood. “He’ll definitely get a look-in — he’s been a great player, especially in T20s recently. But we’ll take a call only after assessing the pitch.”