RCB had a terrible run in 2018, where they were as usual dependent on ‘big 2’ to score most of the runs and collapsed after their dismissal. But what if they had a reliable batsman in the form of Nitish Rana after ‘big 2’ in their lineup to get them over the ropes in crunch situation?
After the end of the 2017 season, Bangalore almost let go of all their players except Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in a bid to overhaul their squad as it was time for the big auction. They are in dire need to add depth to their batting and make it strong enough so that they can afford to lose their main men and still come out on top. To fulfil these aspirations, Bangalore bid for Nitish Rana and secure his services for a sum of 3.4 crores after fighting it out with Kolkata in the auctions.
Nitish Rana had a good outing in the previous IPL, where he scored 333 runs at an average of 30.27 in 13 matches, promising to bear big fruits in the coming seasons. His promise was further aided by a strong domestic season, where he played multiple match-winning knocks for his home side Delhi. Such performances meant that Mandeep Singh, who was also added to the squad, only gets to play second-fiddle to the man from Delhi.
Slotted in after AB de Villiers, Rana gets off to a decent start to his RCB career as he scores 18-ball 37, but despite his contributions, Bangalore fail to stop a dominant Kolkata, who chase the target of 177 with 7 balls to spare. This is not the result RCB expected, however, on the positive note, their batting looks to be in better shape. After a loss in the previous match, Quinton de Kock and de Villiers with the help of a sensible run a ball 22 from Rana, takes RCB to an easy win.
Come the third match, the Delhi batsman finally shows his worth as he dispatches Rajasthan bowlers to all parts of the ground, scoring an unbeaten 50 to take his team home after a brilliant fifty from Kohli at the top. This win adds huge confidence to the side, collecting 2 wins in 3 matches align with the display of their batting depth. Extending his good run against Mumbai, Rana along with his skipper, who scores 92, plays a scintillating knock, scoring his second consecutive unbeaten 50 to push RCB over the ropes.
With little ups and downs throughout the season, Bangalore manages to collect 16 points in 14 matches and paves their way into the playoffs. Come the eliminator against KKR, Rana with his clinical 38-ball 52 bolsters his team to a competitive total of 169, which KKR fails to chase, losing the match by 25 runs. What a turnaround in the fortunes of the team that went from second to last to again in the qualifiers.
But chasing against dominant Hyderabad, Bangalore can’t quite carry their run to the finals as they fall short by 14 runs. Rana turns out to be a great addition for them as he amasses 304 runs at a strike rate of 131.03 in 15 matches, exceeding all expectations. Meanwhile, ahead of the 2018-19 Deodhar Trophy, the selection committee picks Rana, after his IPL show. In the tournament, he scores a decent 68 playing for India A, setting himself up for the bigger stage.
Coming on the back of a good domestic season, the Delhi batsman joins the Bangalore squad for the IPL 2019. Bangalore don’t chop and change the squad as they go with pretty much the same combination. However, things go south for the Kohli-led side as they lose their first 5 matches. Though Rana looks in good form with 2 fifties in 5 matches, he is unable to push his team over the ropes on both occasions. In the sixth match against Delhi, Rana finally was able to finish the game with 27-ball 50. After this, there was no turning back for the franchise as they go on to win their next 7 out of 9 matches, including a reverse fixture win against Delhi, where again Rana gets the Man of the Match for his match-winning fifty.
Surprising everyone with their sudden resurgence, Bangalore make their way to the playoffs with 15 points on the 3rd spot. Quite a journey for a team that lost the first 5 matches. Going into the eliminator Bangalore have the momentum on their side, having already beaten Delhi twice this season.
Batting first, de Kock and Kohli gave a good start to the team before Rana follows it up with a brilliant 50 to take the Men in Red and Gold to a brilliant score of 166, which seemingly was looking like a tough score. During the innings, Rana’s 30 runs in the last two overs, turns out to be the difference between both the teams as Delhi go on to lose the match by 3 runs.
Bangalore’s rally does not stop here as they go on to win the qualifier against CSK as well. Rana again stars with the bat scoring a quick 18-ball 35 to take his team to 169. Chennai start off their chase quite dominantly with both the openers scoring fifties, but as soon as they lose the wicket of Faf du Plessis, it starts a series of wickets, which ends in Bangalore winning the match by 10 runs, taking them one step closer to glory.
Now it was time for the big stage as they go up against mighty Mumbai in the finals. Having never won a title, Bangalore have extra pressure on their shoulders to not falter this time around. Choosing to bat first, Mumbai set up a total of 150 in front of RCB to chase, which looks like a good score against the strong bowling lineup of Mumbai. However, Kohli and Rana had different plans as they clinically chase down the target with their unbeaten fifties, helping Bangalore secure their first-ever IPL title, breaking the draught.
Along with the title for Bangalore, this also turns out to be Rana’s breakthrough season, amassing 453 runs at a strike rate of 146.38. Meanwhile, the Indian team does not look in good shape as they struggle to find their number 4, which leads to their semi-final defeat against New Zealand. After the World Cup 2019, on the back of impressive performances in IPL and domestic cricket, Nitish Rana gets a nod for the ODI side to play against the West Indies.
The Delhi batsman grabs the opportunity with both hands, scoring 4 fifties in 5 innings, making a strong claim on the number 4 position. Later on, his performance against Windies ensures that the selectors pick him for the strong Australian challenge as well, where he has only one notable inning of unbeaten 44 to his name in three matches.
However, trusting the youngster, the southpaw is named in the side for the tour of New Zealand, where he brings up his first century in the opening match itself, scoring 103 off 107 deliveries. He follows up his century with the two fifties in the next two innings, cementing his place in the team, at the expense of the other talents in the country. Rana turns out to be the solution for the middle-order conundrum for India due to which they lost the World Cup, as Virat Kohli comes out in the press conference and admits that, “This is the kind of player that I was looking for as a skipper, he puts his hand up whenever the team requires,” and with that Rana, now is entrusted with the responsibility of shouldering India’s middle-order.