Sri Lankan pace ace Lasith Malinga is a man on a mission. The veteran quick had been in a bit of a quandary with regards to playing the entire IPL season since it was clashing with the domestic one-day tournament in Sri Lanka which he was supposed to feature in in order to be considered for World Cup selection.
Then in a change of heart, the Sri Lankan board allowed the veteran pacer to play the entire IPL as they wanted the ODI skipper to test himself in a tougher competition. Malinga thus played the first three games for Mumbai Indians, putting in a match-winning effort of 3-34 against defending champions Chennai Super Kings in Mumbai on Wednesday.
But less than 12 hours after competing the match in India, Malinga was in Sri Lanka leading the Galle side in the Super Four Provincial Limited Over Tournament. Malinga had decided to play in the tournament in Kandy after all as he deemed it was necessary for his World Cup captaincy candidature, according to reports.
The match in Mumbai finished at 11:45 pm on Wednesday night. Malinga then flew straight to Kandy – where the domestic tournament is being held – to lead Galle for the match that started at 9:45 am. Luckily for Malinga, he did not have to bowl first up on Thursday.
Earlier, favourite Dimuth Karunaratne had landed himself in trouble following a case of drink-driving. That opened the World Cup captaincy spot once again and Malinga could well lead the side at the showpiece event. He is captaining Galle in the tournament that runs from April 4-11. That means he could miss the next two games for Mumbai Indians if Galle reach the final.
Virat Kohli and his men have tasted defeats in all four games so far with the latest of them coming against Rajasthan Royals. Bangalore’s star-studded line up including South African ace AB de Villiers has once again failed to deliver the goods with Kohli struggling to get the right team combination.
Following the seven-wicket loss to Rajasthan, the Royal Challengers skipper hinted at changes in personnel going forward and one man on whom the axe could fall is Shimron Hetmyer.
The 22-year-old explosive West Indies batsman was snapped up by Bangalore for a hefty sum in the IPL auction but his maiden campaign has been anything but a success. The left-hander has been dismissed for single-digit scores in each of his four appearances and has looked at sea against both spin and pace.
Having come in with a fast-developing reputation as a destructive limited-overs batsman, Hetmyer’s scratchy form at the top of the order has cost Bangalore dear.
Hetmyer’s struggles in the IPL have been in stark contrast to the wave of destruction his West Indies counterpart Andre Russell has caused with both bat and ball. The Kolkata Knight Riders’ all-rounder has been the driving force behind the franchise’s strong start to their 2019 campaign and single-handedly won them two matches.
Russell’s 159 runs so far have come at an astonishing strike-rate of over 248 while he has also chipped in with five crucial wickets. The Windies’ all-rounder’s ability to clear the fence at will in the death overs has bailed Kolkata out of trouble multiple times already with the team currently scoring at over 14 runs an over between overs 16 and 20.
However, even Russell’s extraordinary hitting abilities were unable to prevent a defeat for Kolkata in their most recent clash with Delhi Capitals prevailing by three runs via a super over. Russell’s sensational form has masked several issues for Dinesh Karthik and his men including the repeated failure of Chris Lynn at the top.
The Australian opener has managed just the 33 runs from his three innings and his cheap dismissals have added pressure on the middle-order.
KUL-CHA WRIST-SPIN BATTLE
While Hetmyer and Lynn are in the firing line for their respective sides, another intriguing subplot of Friday’s clash will be the battle between India’s first-choice wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
It has been Bangalore’s Chahal who has been the spinner to watch so far with the leg-spinner picking up eight wickets in his four matches while maintaining an economy-rate below seven runs an over. On the other hand, Kuldeep has not looked at his best with the Kolkata wrist-spinner picking up just two wickets in three appearances.
The pitch at the Chinnaswamy stadium affords spinners no room for errors and how Chahal and Kuldeep go for their respective side could have a big bearing on the result.
Sunil Narine missed out on Kolkata’s clash with Delhi Capitals due to an injury and it remains to be seen if the West Indies all-rounder has recovered in time for the Bengaluru showdown.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Washington Sundar, Marcus Stoinis, Akshdeep Nath (wk), Shivam Dube, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Tim Southee, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Chris Lynn/Carlos Brathwaite, Nikhil Naik, Robin Uthappa, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik (c and wk), Andre Russell, Shubman Gill, Piyush Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Lockie Ferguson.
Returning to the competition after a one-year absence following his involvement in the ball-tampering episode, Warner has been in irresistible form with scores of 85, 69 and 100 not out which have come at a striker-rate of over 176.
Sunrisers coach and Warner’s Australia compatriot Tom Moody believes that the left-handed batsman has come out with a point to prove in IPL 2019 following his 12-month suspension and has lauded his mental resilience.
“He has come back full of enthusiasm, full of determination, and with a lot to prove,” Moody said.
“One thing David Warner – and I think all top players are the same – they have got an unquenchable thirst for the game and to have success in the game. That thirst certainly hasn’t been withdrawn by any means.
“He has always had a very positive mindset. He is a very determined and a resilient individual. To endure what he and [Steven] Smith and [Cameron] Bancroft have had to endure over 12 months, there has to be a lot of mental toughness, there has to be a lot of resilience, and having also a very positive mindset because you can very easily find yourself down for long periods of time.”
The 254 runs scored by Warner in the 2019 edition so far have helped the Australian batsman become the first overseas player to bring up 4,000 IPL runs. His partnership with England rival Jonny Bairstow at the top of the order has been nothing short of sensational with the pair putting on three consecutive century stands.
Hyderabad have so far managed two victories from their three clashes and have a chance to go top of the table on Thursday when they take on Delhi Capitals at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.