There's nothing wrong with the Royal Challengers Bangalore middle–order. Or so they’d like everyone to believe. We all know and have seen the extremities — Chris Gayle hitting 17 sixes in one game, scoring 75% of the team’s runs. But we've also seen RCB's fragile middle-order. Apart from Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, none of the batsmen have played responsibly.
So what seems to be the problem?
They have with them some of the most talented batsmen and arguably one of the best bowling attacks in the current IPL season. RCB, one must admit, have been brave in the type of combination they've gone ahead with so far. Playing with five batsmen, one wicket-keeper and five bowlers, it seems they don’t believe in the bits-and-pieces players.
Gayle and Kohli have done the bulk of the scoring, with AB chipping in a few times. But T Dilshan has been a major disappointment. And it seems RCB’s biggest problem is the lack of a good Indian batsman. They have tried Saurabh Tiwary, Mayank Agarwal, Abhinav Mukund — but none have shown the kind of spark needed. They have invested in good bowlers and all-rounders by picking Moises Henriques & Andrew McDonald but picking them means either dropping Ravi Rampaul or AB de Villiers — and that's a tough choice.
So what should the next move be? One wonders why they haven’t played Cheteshwar Pujara yet. He has all the talent and has shown that he can handle the best of attacks. Instead of giving yet another chance to Agarwal or going back to Dilshan, it might not be a bad option to open with him and Gayle.
Pujara will lend the team the solidity that they need. Something like what Jacques Kallis gave them in the first few seasons. Plus, he can very well change gears and up the scoring when needed.
One thing most people have noticed so far is that teams have done well at home. It seems that teams have tried to find players that suit their home conditions more and if they manage to win away with a little tweak in the combo then that’s a bonus. It’s a fair assumption, considering that half of the games will be played at home. If teams can do well about 75-80% of the times and manage two-three more wins away, they will have a good standing on the points table.
There are four teams who haven’t lost at home this year. Until their most recent win, RCB were also looking for an away victory.
Here are some stats from this years’ tournament that will put some things in perspective.
Gayle has scored 37 sixes so far, he also has the Orange cap with 484 runs. But within the team it’s Vinay Kumar who has the highest strike-rate this season at 180.65 per hundred balls. RCB as a team has scored eight fifties so far, of which Kohli has scored three and Gayle two. When it comes to the team bowling most dot balls RCB comes second last.
Vinay Kumar might have picked up a lot of wickets but he is third amongst bowlers who have conceded most fours this year at 32. Ravi Rampaul is guilty of giving away eight sixes off his bowling, ranking him at joint 3rd with Pollard, Bravo and Mishra.
All said, they still have managed to win seven games so far and have beaten some top teams! May good luck be with RCB and they pull-off some stunning victories where it’s the middle-order that contributes!