The Indian Premier League 2014 resumed after being closed for 2 days and kicked off with a match between the Chennai Super Kings, one of the title contenders this year, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore, a side which had started the tournament in a marvelous fashion only to slip down to the bottom half, with a string of defeats to its name. However, in the game, played on May 18, 2014 at the JSCA International Stadium Complex in Ranchi, the Royal Challengers Bangalore did the unthinkable by winning against the better-performing Chennai Super Kings with a margin of 5 wickets.
Team composition: Bangalore made a change to the team from the previous game, bringing in fast bowler Varun Aaron for batsman Vijay Zol. Chennai, on the other hand, opted to leave out Vijay Shankar and Faf du Plessis, who had been performing well and drafted in Mithun Manhas and David Hussey.
Batting: The Super Kings won the toss and opted to bat first. They lost only 4 wickets but were not able to score more than 138 runs in their allotted overs. Suresh Raina, who remained unbeaten on 62 from 48 balls, contributed the lion’s share of the runs. Hussey, in his first game, scored 25 but used up 29 balls, and the others, including the opening pair, were unable to contribute significantly to the total or even force the pace.
Chris Gayle anchored the Royal Challengers’ chase with a 46 from 50 balls. Virat Kohli, the skipper, contributed 27 from 29 balls and Ab de Villiers got 28 from 14 balls to make sure that the team got the points necessary to stay relevant in the tournament.
Bowling: Aaron, in his comeback match, led the bowling for the RCB, with 2 for 29 in 3 overs. Muttiah Muralitharan, who opened the bowling, claimed 1 for 29 in 4 overs and Abu Nechim Ahmed got 1 for 18 in 4 overs. Mitchell Starc bowled economically (23 runs in 4 overs) as did Yuzvendra Chahal (27 runs in 4 overs). They ensured that even if CSK had wickets in hand they were unable to get any momentum going.
For the CSK, Ravichandran Ashwin was the best bowler, with 2 for 16, and Ravindra Jadeja bowled decently – 1 for 31 in 4 overs. Hussey picked up wickets (2 for 38 in 2.5 overs) but was very expensive. Samuel Badree (15 runs in 3 overs), Mohit Sharma (13 runs in 2 overs) and Suresh Raina (20 runs in 4 overs) were economical but the lack of a big total meant they could be negotiated safely. It was also surprising to see Mohit not receiving his full quota of overs or Hussey being preferred over Ishwar Pandey.
Where do the teams go from here?
The way Royal Challengers Bangalore played the game would have been heartening for the fans as well as the players and everyone else connected with the team. They have found a settled combination and would be expected to stick with the same for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, it was surprising to see Dhoni make the changes that he did since he does not make a change without a proper reason. Perhaps giving Hussey some time in the middle was the reason why du Plessis was made to sit out in spite of having performed reasonably well in the matches of late. Dhoni may also need to address the issue of balance in his bowling that is clearly tilting towards spin, which is a form of bowling he is more comfortable with in terms of leading and attack formation. He also needs to bring back du Plessis in the team, seeing how the experiment with Hussey went.