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The Royal Challengers Bangalore are hoping to break the streak of away losses when they take on Pune Warriors India at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium on Thursday evening. The Virat Kohli–led side have so far won all their home games and are comfortable placed in the points table as the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013 enters the second half of the tournament.
In the last encounter between the two sides, PWI were at the receiving end of one of the worst defeats of the season so far with Chris Gayle dismissing the ball with disdain. But, Coach Ray Jennings has warned against taking the home side lightly.
Speaking ahead of the game, the coach said, “I don’t think there is any psychological advantage. Pune (Warriors India) are a good side, the players haven’t come up to expectations but they are a kind of side that can produce really quality cricket on the day and I like to believe that every side wakes up in the morning and clears their heads up and make sure you give your hundred percent.”
Despite the couple of consecutive losses and being barraged with questions about the side’s fortunes away among other things the coach replied with a sense of humour. Discussing the team’s fortunes he said, “We need another left-hand batsman, one big tall West Indian guy is not scoring enough runs so we are looking to replace him.”
However, on a more serious note he analysed the team’s performance and explained the process with simplicity. “In T20 cricket you need to bat and bowl and field well in a package. If you bat well and you field badly and you bowl well you can lose the game. To me the important thing is that we bat at a level that we are confident and match that up with a confident bowling performance as well as a fielding performance and we haven’t done that. We haven’t done two out of three skills at a level where we actually can compete and fielding has been pretty good. (But) we dropped two catches in the last game (against the Rajasthan Royals) and we bowled and batted averagely well and our fielding was probably the worst in the game , from catching point of view. So that package put us on the back foot and that’s why we are losing in the last ball or the last over. Hopefully on Thursday our three skills as a unit are a lot higher and our package can actually put that pressure on the opposition in the bowling and batting department.”
Speaking about the home and away equations of teams he added, “It is hard to say (why the teams are winning at home and losing the away games). When a side is playing well it is hard for me to say doesn’t matter what the ground venue is. If you bowl or bat well you can put sides under pressure. Unfortunately we haven’t played good cricket in the last two games.”
“Sides don’t lose at home or away because of the toss. There hasn’t been any indication that the toss has been a factor. There hasn’t been that much dew that I have watched in IPL and the wickets have been slow for either side and to me there is not any advantage of home or away why the sides are doing well at home.”
“My feeling for my side is that we have played a lot of games at home in a row. Momentum moves the game forward in our direction, the players are happy and they are settled down because we have played a lot of games at home. But I have never experienced six games at home and six wins, four games away four losses, hopefully not a hundred percent record on Thursday!”
Asked of the importance of rotation in a squad he said, "I think the squad’s size is important. But then again because you are winning, you have a combination of players. Because we are winning maybe we should rest Chris Gayle... it doesn’t work that way. You have one or two changes but in the deep squad selection you have to keep them on form and make one or two changes because of injuries. If you make big changes, players may lose self confidence. What I try and see at the beginning of the season is four-five things you need to do to win the tournament. One of the things is you need to have a settled combination. The players need to know whether they are playing or not. I try and be as honest as possible with the players because in IPL lot of players are involved, you travel from place to place and it’s not easy to settle a side down. The only thing is offer honesty with the players.”
Asked if he would be willing to give a couple of young players like Sheldon Jackson or Vijay Zol a game as the tournament progresses he said. “You talk about batsmen, if I look at Rahul (KL) as example, he has got two chances, got to bat in one match and dropped in the next and he just looked at me. To me you can’t bring in Zol until you give Rahul a proper chance. It’s quite difficult in IPL to give a chance to a batsman. You need to give a guy a fair chance, probably three or four games. Guys like Zol, Jackson.... they are going to learn from their overseas players. They have to see this as a learning opportunity. If all 33 guys are going to play in IPL then we are going to run into a problem. Bowling is different, you are going to bowl 24 balls and you are going to make mistakes.
As a batsman it is not easy, there are not too many Jacksons in big sides like the Chennai Super Kings or Mumbai Indians, that the young players aren’t going to get a chance. Sanju the other night, the young (Rajasthan) Royals’ batsman got a chance the other day but that can happen with smaller sides like Royals and Kings XI Punjab where majority of players are juniors. In Super Kings you don’t have the surprise young players coming in. you tend to have more senior, more established cricketers.
While speaking about Saurabh Tiwary who is yet to perform to his potential, he said, “Saurabh has been an interesting cricketer. We all know he went for big money in the auction. He is coming out of an injury, he looks okay. But again the more pressure he creates for himself the bigger the problem. He needs to relax and currently he is enjoying his cricket. That’s all I can do, more than that he has got to deliver. There is a tough situation here... he only faced eight balls last game and 12 balls before that. There is no rhythm. It’s quite difficult for batsmen, whereas the bowlers have more opportunities. We got to be patient with him because he can play. But the batsman’s mindset doesn’t help, they take too much pressure and think too much. There is a fear factor, they know they have got to hit the ball. That’s why Sanju did well. If he was in our team he would have felt a different kind of pressure.”
Speaking further about his side he said that people tend to focus on Chris Gayle because of his dynamic style of batting but the team has won also because of other players like AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli and Vinay Kumar who has also worn the purple cap amongst others. The coach stressed that it is the performance as a unit that contributes to a team win. He also added that it is the pace of Gayle’s innings that makes the difference.
Asked about Zaheer Khan’s status he said, “Zaheer Khan is bowling for the first time tonight. We will see how he develops from here. Hopefully in the next 8-10 days he will get bowling fit and end up playing last two-three games for us.”
Although the coach was not willing to reveal the team combination he said that there are likely to be changes in the team that will take the field against the Warriors.
Chris Gayle’s record-breaking unbeaten 175 must be fresh in the memory of most cricket fans. Pune Warriors India, who were at the receiving end of the Jamaican’s onslaught, have a chance to settle the scores against Gayle and Royal Challengers Bangalore when they face off against RCB in Match 46 of Pepsi IPL 2013.
Pune Warriors India lie at the floor of the table with just two wins from ten matches. The team will be aware that there are certain permutations which will allow them to progress to the play-offs. For them to stay in contention though, they need to first start winning. It is a case of now or never for PWI.
Royal Challengers Bangalore meanwhile sit pretty among the top four teams, but for them to be considered a real force they need to start winning away games. They are yet to win a match on the road this season – losing to Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals in their previous two matches. They will be missing the support back home and need to find some other means of infusing energy into the team, given that they will be playing four back-to-back away matches. With competition for play-off spots getting tighter, RCB will need to win a few away games to seal a place in the top four teams.
Thursday, May 2, 2013, 8 p.m
Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium, Pune
There have been 14 scores of 20 or more between Aaron Finch, Robin Uthappa and Yuvraj Singh. However, only three of them have been converted to scores of 50 or more, and that is where PWI are hurting. Their batsmen are contributing with cameos, but none have gone on to convert them to big match-winning knocks. The focus will continue to be on Finch, Uthappa and Yuvraj for they are the men in form. Steve Smith is another important character in the PWI line-up, for he infuses a lot of energy into the team and has the reputation of being a very good finisher. In a team which has struggled to contain the flow of runs, Bhuvneshwar Kumar – who had outstanding figures of 0-23 in his four-over spell in Bangalore – has held his own.
RCB have shown the inclination to play with five specialist bowlers, and that has meant one of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli or AB De Villiers needs to play a big knock every time. Gayle seems to have a special liking for the PWI attack; he has three fifty-plus scores (including his magnificent 175*) in four innings against them.
Previous matches between the Pune Warriors India and Royal Challengers Bangalore have been one-sided contests, with the latter winning each of the four meetings between the two teams.
In four matches against Pune Warriors India, RCB’s Chris Gayle has scores of 49, 81, 57 & 175*.
Pune Warriors India have conceded the most boundaries this season – 196 (141 fours & 55 sixes).
The Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur will be Pune Warriors India’s next venue; they are scheduled to take on the Rajasthan Royals in Match 50 on May 5. Royal Challengers Bangalore meanwhile head to Mohali to take on Kings XI Punjab on May 6.