Explosive and gifted, they are the best in business. They can destroy the most formidable bowling attack in a space of few overs, push sagging run rates to dizzying highs in no time and change games on the strength of individual brilliance. Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, KL Rahul, Shane Watson — no batting top order could be stronger, right? Well, yes. Particularly when it is T-20, where access to a pool of batting talent like this would always be a dream come true.
Yet, Royal Challengers Bangalore is yet to win the Indian Premier League championship even once. In the tenth edition it started with a whimper, losing to Sunrisers Hyderabad by 35 runs on Wednesday night. In a made-for-big hitters format, the team’s inability to win the championship is difficult to explain. The pool might have changed from time to time with a couple in the top order going out and new ones coming in but the batting strength of the side has been consistently enviable.
When Gayle and Kohli explode together you don’t expect the team to lose. But it happened in the final last year. De Villiers is a one-man army. If he gets into the attack mode with anyone in the top order matching his scorching pace even for a short distance of a few overs, the game should be over for the rival team. Why hasn’t it resulted in an IPL trophy then? The answer is in the balance or the lack of it in the team.
Blame it on muddled thinking. The team has invested too much in batting, allowing the bowling attack to remain consistently weak. Batting strength wins you matches alright, but in this format on a given day any batsman going good from the opponent’s side can exploit a team’s weak bowling to amass a massive total for his side. A 200-plus total in 20 overs becomes a difficult target even if you have the best batting talent at your command. It is not that 200-plus or slightly smaller targets are not chased down. But it’s always safer to keep the rival’s total down.
A bowling combination involving Shane Watson, Stuart Binny, Srinath Aravind, Aniket Choudhary, Tymal Mills and Yuzvendra Chahal — they all played on Wednesday night — certainly does not inspire much confidence. While Mills and Chahal were good, the bowling attack appeared fragile. It’s no surprise that the rest of the bowling was milked by an experienced Yuvraj Singh and Moises Henriques. Watson is highly overrated as a bowler and Binny just does not look even national class when he does not get the swing right. Choudhary and Aravind were clueless on a placid wicket. The guile and deception that is so critical in T-20 bowling was nowhere visible in the bowling of the duo.
It is a bowling attack grossly mismatched in match-winning potential with the batsmen of the team. That’s where the imbalance is most pronounced. If two bowlers keep the batters on the leash, three others could throw any game away. It has been repeating IPL after IPL for the Royal Challengers. Compare this to the bowling attack of Mumbai Indians. Imagine the variety that comes with Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan and Harbhajan Singh among others.
Reputations don’t matter much in the shortest format of the game, particularly in individual matches, but they good bowlers as a pack can make a big difference in the course of many matches. The combined experience, talent and the ability to read the situation comes into play in different stages, making the task easier for batsmen.
The Royal Challengers — three-time finalists — have been found wanting in this respect over many editions of the tournament. The effort, if any, at finding the right balance has not been too apparent. That makes the winning chances of the best IPL team on paper suspect in this edition of the tourney too.
Published Date: Apr 06, 2017 06:03 pm | Updated Date: Apr 06, 2017 06:03 pm