Win it to be in it!

17 May,2024 06:39 AM IST |  Bangalore  |  R Kaushik

Royal Challengers Bengaluru face defending champs Chennai Super Kings in winner-takes-all last league match with both fighting for 4th Playoff spot

Virat Kohli, Rajat Patidar and Karn Sharma (right) during Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s practice session at Bangalore yesterday. Pic/RCB

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After 67 leagues matches of IPL-17, it has finally come down to this. Three teams have already qualified for the Playoffs; the identity of the fourth will become clear on Saturday night, at the end of Royal Challengers Bengaluru's (RCB) must-win showdown against defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
Having begun their campaign timidly with seven losses from their first eight encounters, Faf du Plessis's side have reaped the rewards of a recalibration of its collective mindset. A brainstorming closed-door session at the halfway stage has been backed up by the coming together seamlessly of the various pieces. The bowling, for long the Achilles heel, has been lifted by the return to wicket-taking ways of Mohammed Siraj, the batting is no longer about Virat Kohli alone, even if the former skipper is clearly the fulcrum around which the team revolves.

Qualification scenario

Having strung together five consecutive victories, RCB are in with a genuine shot. A straightforward victory won't do, though; the dynamics point fluidly towards a victory margin of 18 runs or with 11 deliveries to spare, which will change depending on the ground reality. A simple win will be enough to propel CSK to the Playoffs. RCB will not lose sleep over the possible scenarios, not until the skirmishes get underway at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Generally, the Chinnaswamy is a heaving, throbbing sea of red-and-blue on match-day, but Saturday is likely to be different, thanks to the presence in the opposition camp of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Every match CSK have played has been like a home fixture with Yellove the predominant theme. That is set to spill over to the final league fixture at the Chinnaswamy; if things don't go according to plan, it could well be Dhoni's last game of the season, maybe even the final match of a career most glorious.

CSK's MS Dhoni during a practice at Bangalore recently. Pic/CSK

The clamour for tickets and/or passes has touched unprecedented heights, given the various sub-texts that lend further spice to an already momentous occasion. RCB versus CSK has been one of the marquee clashes in IPL history and when the teams met in the tournament opener at Chepauk seven weeks back, it was CSK who lorded the exchanges. RCB will be desperate to get their own back, especially now that they believe their spectacular late surge almost commands a place in the last-four.

Jacks unavailable

The hosts will have to contend with the absence of Will Jacks - not the first choice when the season started, but one of the batting stars with his aggressive intent - who has returned to England on national duty. There is a like-for-like replacement in the out-of-form Glenn Maxwell, as big a lover of the big stage as anyone.

Bengaluru was draped in a gloomy shade of grey on Friday, with a serious threat of rain on match evening. Fans on both sides of the spectrum will hope the outcome is decided on the field of play, not by the fury of nature.

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IPL 2024 virat kohli ms dhoni royal challengers bangalore chennai super kings cricket news sports news Sports Update
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