The Royal Challengers lost their opening match to KKR but Matt Harris expects Virat Kohli's men to consider their selection and to bounce back against Kings XI on Friday...
"When you have Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers and Brendon McCullum at the top of the order, do you really need to add Quinton De Kock?"
Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kings XI Punjab
Friday, 15:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket
RCB need to address top order issues
T20 Cricket may be the most unpredictable form of the game but it seems that you can always rely on RCB to let you down. An impressive haul at the auction brought in some of the best exponents of the short form and led to what was perhaps an inevitable opening defeat to the Knight Riders on Sunday.
I feel that there was a selection issue against KKR and when you have Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers and Brendon McCullum at the top of the order, do you really need to add Quinton De Kock? Bangalore have a competent keeper-batsman in Parthiv Patel but more importantly, omitting QDK would free up space for an overseas bowler and bring better balance to the side.
Tim Southee, Colin De Grandhomme, Moeen Ali and Corey Anderson were all included in the squad, along with Chris Woakes who was selected against Kolkata, and while RCB are favourites here once again, I'd be much more comfortable if this question were addressed.
Kings XI looking good for playoff push
KXIP also had a productive auction and were confident enough to leave Chris Gayle in the shed ahead of their opening win over Delhi Daredevils. Kings' successful run chase that day was built around the fastest ever IPL 50, courtesy of KL Rahul, who reached the landmark from just 14 balls but it was an impressive team contribution that suggests Ravi Ashwin's side could make the playoffs for once.
Ashwin was widely complimented on his captaincy and his arrival means that Kings XI suddenly have one of the better domestic rosters in the tournament. Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Axar Patel, Yuvraj Singh and Mohit Sharma line up with Ashwin and Rahul, meaning that the side won't have to rely on their overseas as much as other franchises and that's a policy that has led to success for CSK in the past.
Before we get too excited it was only Delhi but this KXIP team can go deep this year. The question for now is, do they have enough to win in Bangalore?
Venue and Conditions
With drainage issues having been addressed at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, we should have a faster outfield but this was already one of the higher scoring grounds at the IPL. In 2017, RCB were poor so the average first innings score of 148 in six group games would have been down on previous years and the side taking first knock should be looking to lift that to around 175.
The Royal Challengers won just one of those six games and the wins were split evenly between the teams chasing and those setting a target. The weather is expected to be clear in Bangalore and with most of the opening matches going to the side batting second, expect the skipper who wins the toss to insert.
Can we rely on RCB at odds-on prices?
The Royal Challengers start as favourites at [1.64] with Kings XI some way back at [2.46] but this is RCB so it's never going to be clear cut. Against KKR, the target set of 176/7 was respectable enough so while the batters could lift the pace a little, it's the bowling that needs improvement.
Kings are a real threat here with batting and bowling depth and this market could certainly be tighter. I'd be happier if I knew RCB's line up and I'd prefer them to chase but at this stage I'll back the home side, hoping that Kohli, De Villiers, McCullum and the rest can push on from that opener.
AB De Villiers gave us the profit in this market against KKR with 44 while Brendon McCullum, Virat Kohli and Mandeep Singh all came close to upsetting that tip. That shows that RCB's top batsman market won't be as clear as it has been in previous editions so it's not just a case of backing Virat and / or AB and waiting for the profits to roll in.
For Friday's game, Kohli starts as favourite at 5/2 with De Villiers at 3/1 and McCullum at 16/5 following. Other options include De Kock at 7/2 and Manan Vohra at a generous 5/1 but after a positive start against KKR, I'm looking for Kohli to progress and make up for a disappointing 2017.
Having gone with favourites so far, I'll end with an outside punt as Kings XI offer good value in the most sixes market at 7/5. In the first instance it's a bit of a safety net as I'm not backing RCB for the win with any great confidence but based on Rahul's knock last time out, Punjab can also take this market irrespective of the outright result.
Matt Harris' IPL 2018 P/L