After every year, when RCB disappoints, Kohli promises fans to fight back, a claim which keeps falling short, but for a change, RCB made it to the playoffs. But a Déjà vu over dependency on AB-Kohli and lack of lower-order firepower headlined their horror run than bowling in the business end.
It must be tough being a RCB fan, for you may be wondering whether to be happy that your side made it to the final four since 2016 in the toughest IPL yet or be despondent that the Reds fell short of the crowning jewel yet again. After 10 games, with seven wins and the second spot at their disposal, a clear cut favourites to win, that Virat Kohli's men lost their last four games and had to crawl to the playoffs tells a story itself.
The death bowling was again hopeless but Chahal-Sundar-Siraj-Morris had their time in the sun in the first 15 overs. Barring AB de Villiers, none of the senior batsmen took responsibility. Padikkal shone through at the top but the lack of middle-order firepower left them agonizingly short with Moeen, hardly made use of.
AB de Villiers
An inexperienced lower-middle order, slowing reflexes with age, retirement two years back, leg-spin woes, playing a few months in a year, no senior stepping up, with the additional pressure of wicket-keeping at 36 - yet making 454 runs at a SR of 158.74 - out batting the best batsman in the world who's at the peak of the powers - AB de Villiers had a STUNNING season. Four of his five fifties came in winning causes - two of those absolutely single-handedly powered the team to wins and had he got little support in the knock-out game, things might have been different for the Reds.
In a tournament dominated by fast bowlers, Yuzvendra Chahal showed that he can make most of whatever conditions he gets and with 21 wickets, was the only spinner to finish among top-five wicket-takers. The wrist-spinner who is used to bowling at the tiny M. Chinnaswamy Stadium cashed in on the longer boundaries of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He made beautiful use of the crease, varied his line and lengths, the speed, put on a lot of revolutions on the ball, used his googlies like a game of chess and was always Kohli's go-to-man.
With a strike-rate of 110.08 in middle-overs (6-15), the worst among batsmen who scored a minimum of 200 runs in those overs, Virat Kohli was one of the biggest disappointments of the season- as harsh as it may sound. He did score 466 runs but a POOR strike-rate of 121.35. With Padikkal already playing anchor role, it wasn't a season that Kohli would look back proudly given it put more pressure on AB de Villiers and Virat consistently failed to finish with a flourish barring a knock or two.
Australian white-ball skipper, a gun T20I batsman, pitches favouring fast bowlers than spinners mostly, a senior role yet Aaron Finch only put the team under pressure with his underwhelming run. He was slotted at the top to add firepower but struggled to make runs and when he did, had a poor strike-rate. Not that he didn't get chances, yet he made 268 runs at 22.33 with a strike-rate of 111.20 after 12 games, which reflects poorly on such a class batsman.
Direction (Coaching/Decision making) - 7/10
This looked like a movie which was powered by men giving direction - Mike Hesson and Simon Katich then the film's hero Virat Kohli taking the calls, as it should be and hasn't been for RCB over the years. The scouting was far better, they chose the correct players and then backed them to the hilt. Now, persisting with Finch for far too long, not opening with Virat, Moeen missing from the script, playing too much around Dube's batting spot were few things that pegged back the Reds and could have been done better.
Playing youngster Padikkal over Parthiv Patel despite him doing well last year, finally showing the much-needed trust in Sundar be it in powerplay overs or afterwards, and not losing hope with Siraj instead using him as an enforcer, helped the team greatly, which reflected in their performances. RCB showed patience with their young talents rather than chopping and changing, which reaped fruits.
The great Chris Morris punt
RCB had shown a lot of faith in Chris Morris getting him for a whopping 10 crores and he turned out one of the biggest hits this season with 11 wickets in 9 games at an economy of 6.63. He strengthened the death bowling, was decent with the new ball and added a great balance to the side. The Proteas all-rounder is good enough to play as a bowler but if he starts getting more exposure with the bat, he can be even more dangerous.
Intent-less batting in middle-overs
With a strike-rate of (110.61) and only 21 sixes, RCB had the worst middle-overs record this season. Finalists, MI (131.16) and DC (129.85) had the best strike-rates in the phase while they hit 54 and 43 sixes, which shows how poor RCB were in the phase. Padikkal, AB and Kohli, RCB's top-three scorers showed no intent between 7-15 overs, which backfired badly.
Poor management of Moeen and Dube
Given how slowly RCB were playing in middle-overs, they could have used the likes of Moeen Ali and Shivam Dube, known as big hitters against spin or even Sundar to counter-attack wrist-spinners. Moeen Ali could have filled the void of a gun middle-overs batter especially after how well he had done last year with AB being used with 7-8 overs remaining. Also, Virat Kohli should have been opening once Finch was dropped rather than taking the slot as late as the Eliminator.
Devdutt Padikkal was supposed to be a sidekick to Finch and overall in a top-four comprising, the Aussie, Kohli and ABD, but he turned out a big bull and ended as the highest scorer for RCB. Similarly, Sundar supported Chahal well and ended with an economy under 6, the second-best this season with a minimum of 10 games. Gurkeerat Singh Mann was a big disappointment, however, Shahbaz Ahmed was impressive and his 2 for 26 against Delhi in the final league stage game helped RCB qualify for the playoffs. Siraj was also great and took crucial wickets finishing with 11 wickets in 9 games.