BANGALORE: Get Chris Gayle, get Royal Challengers! Well, Kings XI Punjab proved it during the league phase. Chennai Super Kings did just that in the qualifier. And if Mumbai Indians can do so, their road to the final will be less ‘hurdlesome’. The clash has two interesting aspects to it. Two of IPL IV’s highest run-getters are up against two of the tournament’s highest wicket-takers.

Chris Gayle dons the Orange Cap with a whopping 519 runs from a mere 10 games, eight of which RCB have won. Gayle’s comrade in fours and sixers Virat Kohli comes next with 514 from 14 games, one run more than Mumbai skipper Sachin Tendulkar.

Gayle also holds the record of smashing the maximum number of sixers. He has sent the white sphere spinning in the air and crashing into the roofs and stands an incredible 39 times with only 47 boundaries in comparison.

When the teams met for the first time, Mumbai won by nine wickets in Bangalore but Gayle wasn’t around. How he shapes up against Mumbai Indians’ paceman Lasith Malinga, the tournament’s highest wicket-taker so far, will decide the course of the game in the main. Malinga has 28 wickets from 15 games while his opening partner Munaf Patel comes just behind with 20 scalps from 14 outings.

If Malinga is the toe-crusher, Gayle is the hoister par excellence. Toe crushing may need some effort but hoisting full tosses, full length or short pitched, or flighted deliveries is virtually child’s play for Gayle.

If Malinga has Munaf to provide support, Gayle has Kohli for just that. The RCB duo have been involved in one century partnership and five 50-plus stands in 10 games.

Skipper Daniel Vettori had said the other day that he was still experimenting as far as Gayle’s opening partner is concerned. If Gayle is not a victim of his own impetiousity and stays long enough for Kohli to arrive, Mumbai co*uld well be in trouble.

But then, the Bangalore reds must eschew the tendency to over-depend on this duo. AB de Villiers, Saurabh Tiwary and Luke Pomersbach are yet to make sizeable contributions with the bat and it’s time they stood up to the challenge. Zaheer Khan, Sreenath Aravind and Daniel Vettori have it in them to tackle Mumbai’s batting despite the presence of Tendulkar, Kieron Pollard, Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayadu. But then if a bowler sends down a full toss when six is needed off last two balls, Gayle might as well not sound his willow that hard.

Probably, for the first time in IPL, the top two batsmen are up against the top two bowlers in a match that will give on the right to challenge for the title. Yet, in the final analysis, Mumbai might just end up as the ‘royal challengers’ giving the Bangalore team a second tilt at the IPL crown in four years.

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