Seven wins after 10 games and it has been an enchanting journey for Virat Kohli's men. So much so they must be dreaming for eternity. But then when you start peeling off the layers, there are lot of grey areas that come up, which have the potential of jeopardizing RCB's dream run of the decade
Riding high after an incredible win over the Kolkata Knight Riders, and displacing Mumbai Indians in the points table, to leapfrog to second position in the IPL points table, even if RCB do an RCB, they will reach the playoffs. Well, such has been the startling performances from them thus far, which has been simply phenomenal. But then as good as they have been, when you go beyond the surface area, there are seemingly lots of areas that make you wonder if this side can actually win the title. We have our doubts unless, of course, they sort out these vulnerabilities.
Gaping holes up top
In an IPL team, where you don't have the liberty to play more than four foreign players, if one becomes a liability, no matter how big a name and respect he commands, it doesn't work, at least in the long run. Aaron Finch was supposed to get RCB off to flyers with his chutzpah laden power striking in T20s but all that he has done is to play second-fiddle to a 20-year-old playing his first IPL. With an awful strike-rate of 110.50 and average of 22.10, he continues to take IPL as an alien to earth.
His opening partner, the young, the delightful, Devdutt Padikkal has been consistent but then his strike-rate of 124.42 is concerning, especially if your partner is already striking at 110.50. If you stack him up against DC (Shaw and Dhawan) or MI openers (Rohit and Kock), none of them strike at below 140 barring Rohit, who has had a lean patch in last five games. Of the last five games, twice Padikkal's strike-rate has been below 100 while two times when he tried to bat with real intent, he failed to get a big score. RCB's opening isn't as sorted as it might seem to the onlookers.
RCB's middle-order- ABD and Kohli, full stop!
The beauty of T20 cricket is match-winners help you win games but then well-rounded teams win the silverware. That's how MI have been the most successful. They have great openers in Rohit and Kock but then they also have dependable batsmen in the middle-order like SKY, Pollard and Pandya, with Kishan also coming to the party at times.
For RCB, you can use a ridiculous number of binoculars only to find Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers year after year in the middle-order. As good as it is to have Virat and AB, it's a sorry state as well, given they just can't bail you out every freaking time as much as you want. Luckily for the Reds, AB won them two games single-handedly against KKR and RR, set-up a big total against MI while Kohli waged and won a lone battle against CSK.
When Kohli and AB bat in middle-overs, it's quite apparent that they do so thinking that no one reliable comes after. This year, between overs 7 and 15, AB strikes at 107 while Kohli does it slightly better at 112.6. There has been a sharp decline in their middle-overs SR as before the start of the season, AB and Kohli were striking at 134.7 and 125.6 respectively in middle-overs in IPL. Now, there is another angle to this as well, both the batters have had issues against leg-spinners in the last couple of years, which opponents attack them with, in ample. But they can't even fight it now, as there is no one to take the initiative after them.
Most of AB's magic tricks have come once spinners disappear and pacers arrive at death, be it against KKR or RR. Gurkeerat Mann got to bat in the last two games, even got a promotion in Abu Dhabi versus KKR but he is striking at 93.02. He nearly did a Vijay Shankar of Nidahas trophy before ABD did a DK against RR. Moeen Ali was supposed to strengthen RCB's middle-order but mysteriously, he hasn't played more than a game. While Chris Morris, again a high rated finisher, has faced just 8 balls in five games, and him lacking batting time in the middle can come back to bite the side. Dube has shown glimpses of his power hitting but he isn't fitting in the team combination while Sundar has not made much of the few chances he has got.
RCB and death bowling, a mismatch since time immemorial
Chris Morris has worked like a magic pill for RCB and since he has joined the team, they have finally found a death bowler, at last. The Proteas paceman has taken seven wickets at death with a laudable economy rate of 6.38. But Isuru Udana, whose death economy before joining the IPL, since start of 2015, was 7.78 with 15 wickets, has been expensive, as he has given 9.2 runs per over with merely three wickets. Kohli's trust in Udana has diminished so much that despite playing him as a specialist foreign pacer, he has only bowled six overs in the last three games.
But for RCB, the biggest jolt has come in form of Saini. He has a yorker up his sleeve and had promised a lot in death overs with eight wickets and epo of 9.27 last year and since had played for India at the highest level. But he has returned a poorer bowler and has conceded 10.78 rpo between overs 16 and 20, with just two wickets. Siraj and Chahal have also struggled at the end, and have ER of 10.4 and 10.5 respectively. Dale Steyn was also terrible in same respect and was dropped. All in all, it's as bleak a picture as it gets in the death overs for Bangalore, for the nth time in IPL. And it would be foolish to think it won't hurt them in big knock-out games against heavyweights, MI or DC.
Kohli needs to be bold with selections as this is the best chance for RCB to lift the title. So they can let off Finch and his larger than life T20 reputation and there are options aplenty like Parthiv Patel or a certain Sundar with wickets slowing down and them having better suited game in such a scenario. Moeen can be slotted in middle-order as he can give impetus against spinners. Yes, it will flock the team with southpaws but you have to make the best use of resources that you have got, and with most team's preference for leg-spinners in middle-overs, their leg breaks can be countered by left-handers better as it falls in their arc. As things stand out, Udana is the best bet after Morris at death and if he isn't trusted with more overs, it will only make him more diffident at death. It would be interesting to see where RCB finish after what has been a memorable start for them in the tourney. What's clear though is that there are lot of glaring issues with the side, which even victories can't hide.