It's make or break for Royal Challengers
With the first of six successive games, away from their comfort zone, conceded to Mumbai Indians, the results of the next five will be crucial in determining how comfortably the team from Bangalore is placed when it welcomes Punjab at the Chinnaswamy on May 14, says Bikash Mohapatra.
In the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) if there's one team that has been dominant and entertaining at the same time it is Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
If on the one hand there's Chris Gayle, who has intimidated the bowlers and has by far been the best player in the tournament -- it will take some effort to take the Orange Cap from his head, on the other there have been significant contributions from the likes of Virat Kohli, R Vinay Kumar or for that matter AB de Villiers.
Image: RCB players celebrate
Humiliating defeat at the hands of Mumbai paved the way for Chennai
However, after nine rounds of matches, the team from Bangalore has ceded the lead to Chennai Super Kings (CSK), this after having been comfortable leaders for a while.
The prime reason for this change in the table is RCB's failure on the road.
In the three matches they have played away from their home turf, the two-time finalists have failed to win any. Compare this to their home form and it presents a contrasting statistic.
For RCB has won all its six matches at home -- M Chinnaswamy stadium has been a fortress that is yet to be breached.
In fact it was the humiliating defeat RCB suffered at the hands of Mumbai Indians (MI) at the Wankhede on Saturday that paved the way for Chennai to usurp the lead, which they conveniently did by brushing aside defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders at the Chepauk a day later.
Image: Chris Gayle
'People have already started saying that we cannot play away from home'
When asked why his team is struggling away from home, captain Kohli was quick to defend.
"People have already started saying that we cannot play away from home," he murmured, not willing to take any criticism whatsoever.
"But two of the games we have lost went down to the last wire," he continued, indicating to the matches against Sunrisers Hyderabad – that the latter won in the one-over eliminator – and Chennai Super Kings, that MS Dhoni's team won with one ball remaining.
"Had we executed our plans well on those days we would have had eight wins out of nine at this point," added Kohli. The RCB captain though admitted that his side failed to deliver the goods in Mumbai.
"We were outplayed, probably for the first time in the tournament," said Kohli. That game in Wankhede coincidentally marked the start of an away stretch for RCB, the team from Bangalore playing five matches in succession on the road.
Image: Virat Kohli with Chris Gayle
'We have to play exactly the way we play at home'
First up will be a clash with the high-flying Rajasthan Royals on Monday followed by matches against Pune Warriors India (May 2), Kings XI Punjab (May 6), Delhi Daredevils (May 10) and Kolkata Knight Riders (May 12).
With the first of the six successive games, away from their comfort zone, conceded (to MI), the results in the next five games will be crucial in determining how comfortably the team from Bangalore is placed when they welcome Punjab at the Chinnaswamy (May 14).
The two-time finalists missed out on a play-off berth last season, and with their owners having many other problems to deal with, RCB's performance this season is extremely important for the franchise. So how do they plan to face these upcoming challenges?
"We have to play exactly the way we play at home," asserted Kohli, adding, "We have to be smart.
"And the intent has to be positive."