Royal Challengers Bangalore sports a formidable batting line-up
The euphoria over the Indian World Cup triumph still thickly hanging in the air, Kochi is finally ready and waiting for the action in the DFL IPL Twenty20 tournament to begin. All the false starts caused by the innumerable controversies that dogged Kochi Tuskers Kerala are now just a thing of the past; buried safe and sound much to the happiness of its fans.
Yet, as the local side — one of the two new additions to the rich and famous tournament this year — lock horns with the formidable Royal Challengers, Bangalore at the spruced up Jawaharlal Nehru stadium on Saturday, it could be a real baptism with fire for the Tuskers as the visiting outfit with a more balanced side clearly seems to holds the edge.
A team with considerable pedigree and experience of the last three years, RCB propels itself as the firm favourite not by virtue of its good showing over the past two years, but on account of its sheer batting strength. The team boasts of top names like Tillakaratne Dilshan, AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli and Saurabh Tiwary who, when on song, have the proven ability to rip apart any bowing line-up.
Besides, Dilshan and de Villiers, the other two foreign signups to feature tomorrow in RCB's starting XI could be Daniel Vettori, the team skipper and Dutch-Australian Dirk Nannes.
Equally impressive is RCB's bowling line-up, with the side certain to be spearheaded by the peerless Zaheer Khan who will be supported by Nannes in sharing the new ball. Vettori, though prone to injury off late, will be leading the spin department for RCB even though it is one area where the side has some chinks in its armour due to the lack of quality bowler to lend support to the world's best left-arm spinner.
The Kochi side, in comparison, does start on an even keel with its rival while handling the ball. With the wily spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan certain to play the lead role in the team's fortunes in restricting its rival to a modest total, the side has many options with both pace and spin as the squad includes the likes of local hero S. Sreesanth, R.P. Singh , R. Vinay Kumar, Ramesh Powar and Ravindra Jadeja.
Another aspect which should also help the side is the presence of utility players in Brad Hodge and Thisara Perera.
The same, however, cannot be said about the Tuskers' batting, wherein the main stay should be its skipper Mahela Jayawardene, who can fill in at any slot at the top and middle. The Sri Lankan, in such top form as is evident from the sublime century against India in the World Cup final, would, however, be under tremendous pressure trying to keep his side's chances alive day after day as the tournament makes further progress.