Mohali: Punjab Kings (PBKS) would be sweating over skipper Shikhar Dhawan’s injury at a time when they need all their firepower against an extremely tough but luckless Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match here on Thursday.
Dhawan, 37, who is one of the bright spots in the PBKS team, was ruled out against Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) on April 15 in Lucknow due to a shoulder injury and England all-rounder Sam Curran marshalled the side during their two-wicket win at the Ekana Stadium.
There were several unlikely heroes, who put their hands up in the game, with 36-year-old Zimbabwe all-rounder Sikandar Raza emerging the leading run-getter for the side with a polished 57, while Matthew Short, Harpreet Singh and Tamil Nadu cricketer M Shahrukh Khan guided the team to the finish line.
But, RCB are a much bigger threat on paper than LSG, and Curran would know he too will need to come to the party with the bat if they are to defeat Faf du Plessis’ side and earn two points at home.
Curran’s iffy form with the bat has been a concern, as he could manage just six runs against LSG, though his three wickets played a key role in restricting KL Rahul’s side to 159/8.
PBKS’ top order looks solid when Dhawan is around, but with a question mark over his fitness, his opening partner Prabhsimran Singh will have to play sensibly and also hope his partner plays a responsible knock, which was missing against LSG.
Both Prabhsimran (4) and his new opening batter Atharva Taide (0) were dismissed cheaply, leaving others to shore up the innings.
PBKS’ bowling, though, has stood the sternest of tests this season with their two left-armers — Arshdeep Singh and Curran — at the forefront, while South African pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada has only added to the potency.
While PBKS, currently fifth with six points from five outings, have been performing at an optimum level as the IPL season looks set to enter its fourth weak, the only thing holding them back from making it to the top is their brittle batting, which has more often than not been shored up by Dhawan — the 99 against Sunrisers Hyderabad being a case in point.
In contrast, RCB have been unlucky when it comes to eking out wins. With skipper du Plessis and Virat Kohli opening the innings, they perhaps have the best opening pair in the tournament, barring, of course, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Jos Buttler for Rajasthan Royals.
With Glenn Maxwell coming in at No.4 and Shahbaz Ahmed, Dinesh Karthik and Suyash Prabhudessai following the Australian, RCB bat really deep. But their biggest flaw, unfortunately, is the same as PBKS — an inconsistent top order.
With Kohli (6) and Mahipal Lomror (0) being dismissed cheaply against CSK, the onus to rebuild the innings, while chasing CSK’s mammoth 226, fell on du Plessis and Maxwell’s shoulders. They did exceptionally well on a belter of a wicket in Bengaluru but the team fell short by eight runs.
The close losses have, unfortunately, left RCB taking a back-seat on the IPL table — they are placed eighth with four points from five matches. The side still has many opportunities to up its game and be in contention for the playoffs, but in a fast-paced tournament like the IPL, things change dramatically.
RCB might not have the same firepower in their bowling as PBKS, but their quicks — Mohammed Siraj, Harshal Patel and South Africa’s Wayne Parnell — are not short on commitment.
All they need is a couple of moral-boosting wins to lift their spirits and put their campaign back on track. That could well come against PBKS on Thursday.
Teams (from): Punjab Kings: Shikhar Dhawan (c), Arshdeep Singh, Baltej Singh, Rahul Chahar, Sam Curran, Rishi Dhawan, Nathan Ellis, Gurnoor Brar, Harpreet Brar, Harpreet Singh, Vidwath Kaverappa, Liam Livingstone, Mohit Rathee, Prabhsimran Singh, Kagiso Rabada, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, M Shahrukh Khan, Jitesh Sharma, Shivam Singh, Matthew Short, Sikandar Raza, Atharva Taide.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Faf du Plessis (c), Akash Deep, Finn Allen, Anuj Rawat, Avinash Singh, Manoj Bhandage, Michael Bracewell, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dinesh Karthik, Siddarth Kaul, Virat Kohli, Mahipal Lomror, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Siraj, Wayne Parnell, Harshal Patel, Suyash Prabhudessai, Rajan Kumar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Karn Sharma, Himanshu Sharma, Sonu Yadav, Vijaykumar Vyshak, David Willey.
Match starts at 3:30 PM.