After 6 straight defeats, RCB fans’ only wish was to get the sweet taste of a magnificent victory. Not an exaggeration, but a winless season for RCB looked imminent and just when their most loyal fans started giving up hopes, their fortunes revived in the second half of the tournament.
Saying that RCB were at sixes and sevens after losing six games would be an understatement. At the end of the first leg, when most of the teams were mid-way in the playoffs race, RCB were still lazing around the starting line, trying to figure out their effective playing XI. Such was the shambling state of the star-studded side.
The ratio at which RCB’s plans failed initially was inversely proportional to CSK’s success rate in that phase. Not many teams have experienced the burden of losing six matches in a row, but RCB defied all the odds and came out fighting in the second leg.
The second phase of the tournament is an indication of the kind of firepower they have in store, but a lot of chopping and changing mixed with inconsistency haunted the star-studded side this season. With just 11 points in their basket from five wins a draw, RCB ended up as bottom-dwellers this season, but there is certainly a lot more to this side than this.
Prior to the start of the season, even though RCB were not touted as favourites, no one expected them to have such a torrid run. The presence of many international stars involuntarily raises the bar for the Bangalore-based franchise.
AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli were expected to shoulder the run-scoring responsibility while other crops’ job was to render enough support and reduce the pressure. But as the losing streak flowed in, RCB opted for the chop and change policy, however, neither Kohli nor de Villiers had an outstanding season, which affected their run considering the fact that they played seven matches on the batting paradise of Chinnaswamy.
To add to their woes, the fringe players failed to deliver and the domestic talents hardly posed any substantial threat, something that was evidently seen in CSK, Mumbai and DC, who have qualified for the playoffs. RCB didn’t have a great core, something they need to pull up on in the next season.
It demands no rocket science to guess what worked for RCB this season. With the bat, it was as usual de Villiers and Kohli, and Yuzvendra Chahal was their highest wicket taker this season. Does this ring any kind of a bell? Of course, it does. This has been the template for RCB for almost a decade.
If we go by numbers, AB de Villiers’ name would be the first to reflect on this list, but if one introspects his performance, he has hardly replicated the magic, he is known for. While he is still executing those trademark shots to perfection, but has looked a little vulnerable against quality pace attacks as well as spin. He is by far not the same AB who used to hit the best of bowlers at will. Although he wasn’t at his pure best, de Villiers did manage to top the charts with the bat for RCB and along with Kohli and Parthiv Patel, the trio did well with the bat.
The troika of Parthiv, de Villiers and Kohli accounted for 1279 runs between them this season at the top. In the middle-order, Moeen Ali was the stand-out performer, who not only scored brisk runs but also bagged key wickets at crucial junctures. Stoinis showed occasional sparks of brilliance but needed to weave magic on a regular basis. In 10 games, Stoinis amassed 211 runs at a staggering average 52.75, though he had just two wickets with the ball, his bowling at times was very economical.
Shimron Hetmyer showed glimpses of what’s in store in the final game with a match-winning fifty. Dale Steyn’s inclusion infused new life in the languishing RCB side, but a shoulder injury meant just two games for the South African speedster. Chahal was outstanding with the ball, bagging 16 wickets while Saini increased his stocks price with some serious pace and promising talent.
Well, this will be one long list. While nine out of ten people would blame RCB’s bowling for their torrid run this season, their batting, at times, did let them down. In a format of uncertainties, a team cannot afford to step a foot wrong, but RCB walked a mile on the wrong path. With the balance of the game being heavily tilted in the favour of batsmen, death bowling becomes murderous.
Teams with a pool of fine death bowlers are consistent performers. For instance, Mumbai Indians have Jasprit Bumrah and Lasith Malinga while Chennai Super Kings bank on Dwayne Bravo. Kagiso Rabada has been outstanding for Delhi Capitals while Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Khaleel Ahmed have also had their share of success.
RCB were seen to be wanting on this front big time. Umesh Yadav’s terrible form haunted RCB this season as he looked bereft of oomph with the ball in hand, especially in the death. He picked 20 wickets last season at an overwhelming economy of 7.86 despite playing seven matches in batting-friendly conditions of Chinnaswamy. However, this season was contradictory. To throw light on his mediocrity, Umesh conceded 24 runs in the final over while defending 26 against MS Dhoni and almost lost the game for RCB. Although the World Cup snub was playing on the back of his mind, one cannot deny the fact that his run was the biggest disenchantment of the season for RCB.
Tim Southee‘s lean patch only caused more trouble for the languishing RCB side alongside underperforming Mohammad Siraj, who kept on leaking runs in death. Apart from this, RCB were poor in planning and executing their plans, which were again ordinary. In a rush of blood, perhaps, RCB made several panic changes. The batting order at times didn’t make a lot of sense and the logic behind not playing Washington Sundar consistently was again not justified. To add to their woes, despite being more than handy with the ball, Moeen Ali didn’t bowl enough or at times didn’t bowl at all.
At times, investing in a player for an elongated period of time can turn out to fruitful. But renowned players like Colin de Grandhomme, Shimron Hetmyer, Gurkeerat Singh and Heinrich Klaasen only featured in 4, 4, 3, 3 games respectively this season. Although none of these players showed promise initially and their axing was justified to an extent, but the fact that an underperforming Mohammad Siraj and Umesh were given longer ropes make their case a little on the stronger side.
With RCB being heavily dependent on their batting to bail them out, Kohli and de Villiers needed to have a phenomenal season similar to David Warner and Jonny Bairstow's in Hyderabad. A win here or there would have revived RCB’s fortunes and chiselled their path into the playoffs. Luck, too, turned its back on RCB as Virat Kohli lost ten tosses in 14 games and were unfortunate to miss two key bowlers in Nathan Coulter-Nile and Dale Steyn due to injury. On a couple of occasions, umpires too made a mistake in not spotting the no-balls against MI and SRH in crunch situations. Their penultimate game, against Rajasthan Royals, was also washed out further denting their hopes of making it to the playoffs.
Going ahead, RCB would need a massive transformation to get rid of the tag of bottom-dwellers. They would need their domestic players to render enough support to the likes of Kohli, de Villiers and Chahal. They can take a leaf out of Delhi’s run this season. Last, but not least, they would need a good auction, where some firepower is infused in the bowling department.
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