Royal Challengers Bangalore will be favourties to beat Chennai Super Kings in MS Dhoni's backyard in Qualifier 2 on Friday and meet Mumbai Indians in the final on Sunday.
Fans take pictures of Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli on his arrival in Ranchi on Thursday on the eve of their match against Chennai Super Kings, (below) CSK’s Dwayne Bravo (C) and Ravindra Jadeja (R) during training at JSCA stadium in Ranchi on Thursday. PTI
New Test captain Virat Kohli will lead a pumped-up side who posted an authoritative 71-run win over Rajasthan Royals in Wednesday night's Eliminator in Pune. It was a win that showed the tremendous character of the RCB batsmen, especially AB de Villiers and young talent Mandeep Singh.
Kohli & Co. enter the fortress of the player he has taken over the reins of Indian Test cricket from. RCB are one of only two teams to have beaten CSK in Ranchi (Sunrisers Hyderabad being the other) in the IPL. RCB will take confidence from that five-wicket win in 2014 even though they must be aware that the crowd will be cheering for Dhoni and his yellow brigade.
As Mandeep said on Wednesday night, "Obviously Chennai will have more support than us in Ranchi, but I think if we play to our strengths, we can win there too."
Bangalore have nothing to lose. They are on a roll and have a well-balanced unit. It has been quite a while since openers Kohli and Chris Gayle came up with a big score in a full game. Friday may well be it. Along with de Villiers, the top three have done the bulk of scoring, each amassing 450 and above. That de Villiers and Mandeep still managed to take RCB to a healthy total after the openers failed on a low and slow Pune pitch indicated that they have all their bases covered. And, if it is a batting-friendly pitch that Ranchi usually is, then CSK bowlers will have to run for cover.
Their bowlers, apart from Dwayne Bravo, have shone in patches but succumbed when it mattered most against Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 1. Bravo may be the man with the golden arm, having more chances of picking up wickets in the death when the opposition goes for big shots in an attempt to accelerate.
CSK batting has been weakened by the return of Brendon McCullum and his replacement, the 39-year-old Mike Hussey is short on match experience, having only played two games and done little of note.
Glimpses of AB in Mandy
The momentum is with RCB, for sure. And one RCB batsman who would want to carry on the momentum from the Eliminator win will be 23-year-old exciting batsman Mandeep. The manner in which he batted against Rajasthan Royals eased the pressure off the usually-dangerous AB de Villiers in the initial stages. There may have been glimpses of AB de Villiers in the way Mandeep batted, though it is highly unfair on both to make comparisons.
Paddy Upton, head coach of Rajasthan Royals, who were at the receiving end of the AB-Mandeep 113-run third-wicket partnership, praised the Punjab batsman. Upton said on Wednesday night, "Mandeep Singh came in and he was the only player to be able to take the game on from ball one. If you look at Virat, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers, Mandeep came in and in the first 15 balls, he clearly outshone them. On Wednesday, he was definitely the player who brought in an injection into the RCB side. And only after did AB catch up with him. He was definitely the player to turn the tide for RCB and full credit to him."
Upton saw some similarities between Mandeep and AB in the way they dominated the bowling. "AB is a freak and I have not seen too many people anywhere looking close to him. I would not say if Mandeep has shades of AB but he really played confident front foot-back foot game all around the wicket on a very difficult pitch. In terms of the way he (Mandeep) dominated, there were some similarities (with AB)."