RCB will be banking on Gayle and other big hitters to come good
Even as the City has been reeling under a severe heat wave, the cricket-crazy fans are in the mood to welcome another wave — in the form of Chris Gayle.
They would love to freeze in memory one more special innings from him, forgetting for a moment that the home team would be in the firing line.
The fact that all tickets are sold out for the final league match of Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Sunday could well be a reflection of the Gayle phenomenon that has hit fans across the country.
It is a must-win game for Royal Challengers if it is to keep its hopes of qualifying for the play-offs (17 points from 15 games).
Nothing at stake
On the other hand, Chargers has nothing at stake (at the bottom of the table with seven points from 15 games) but still is in a position to knock out another contender if it puts up an improved performance as it did against Rajasthan Royals on Friday night.
For someone who is in such ominous form, Gayle (706 runs from 14 games) should relish batting on this track which curator Y.L. Chandrasekhar feels will play true.
Displaying a typical West Indian cavalier attitude, Gayle destroys the best of bowling attacks with ease and an awesome range of strokes. Inevitably, RCB's hopes of a huge score hinge on how well he bats.
No doubt, it will not be an easy outing for Chargers' bowlers even if Gayle falls early. RCB has a formidable batting line-up comprising A.B. de Villiers, Dilshan Tillakaratne, stand-in captain Virat Kohli and Saurabh Tiwary. All of them are capable of changing the course of the game in a few overs.
Chargers' bowling has to be spot on and get breakthroughs at regular intervals to put the brakes on this batting line-up which can test the best of bowling attacks on its day.
The best fast bowler in the IPL, Dale Steyn, would be keen to brush aside the onslaught of de Villiers as an aberration when the two teams last met in Bangalore.
He holds the key to Chargers' game-plan. For the other bowlers it will be a huge test of skill, temperament and ability to play under pressure.
Chargers' batting has been really the biggest positive this season with Shikhar Dhawan (564) and Cameron White (478) leading the pack.
If Kumar Sangakkara (who opted out against Rajasthan Royals) decides to play and lead, the onus will be on him to come up with a special effort and leave behind his lean patch (185 runs from 11 games).
So is the case with Jean-Paul Duminy who has not really struck form.
Akshath Reddy batted well against Rajasthan Royals but in comparatively easier conditions and chasing a pretty modest total. His true potential will be under the scanner on Sunday.
The Chargers' batting will be up against a bowling line-up which has plenty of experience, variety and depth in Zaheer Khan, Vinay Kumar, Muttiah Muralitharan and Daniel Vettori.
Given the success of Muralitharan, it will be difficult for the brains-trust to choose between him and Vettori even for this crunch game.
While the tournament is as good as over for Chargers, RCB has every reason to be optimistic about Sunday's game.