The essence of T20 format is to play fearless cricket as epitomised by Hardik Pandya and Yuzvendra Chahal in batting and bowling respectively.
Hardik might mishit a shot, like he did in the 17th over when he was dropped by substitute Tim Southee, or miss connecting some extravagant drives. But these do not deter him from playing fearlessly and going for big shots. In fact he is constantly in the bowler’s face and reminds him that he is there to take him apart. His demeanour threatens the bowler and sends a grim message: that he is just one shot away from depositing the ball into the stands.
Likewise, Chahal hardly gets fazed when a batsman goes after him and blasts his offering out of the ground. He gives the impression that he has something up his sleeve as he aggressively plots to remove the batsman from the scene. There is confidence in his deportment and mocking challenge in his eyes. So much so even big hitters like Chris Gayle are wary of taking him on, even in the powerplay overs.
Unfortunately for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chahal is the only rare gem they have in the bowling department. The others are petrified of big hitters and give the impression that they would rather be hiding somewhere else.
It does not matter whether it is Mohammed Siraj or Pawan Negi or any other bowler. They simply do not have the heart of a warrior and their body language betrays their inherent submissiveness and an inability to even think straight.
On Monday night, this trait was exhibited by the batsmen too. Akshdeep Nath, a former India Under-19 vice-captain and first class cricketer for over six years, froze at the sight of Keiron Pollard and in the process got his rampaging teammate, AB de Villiers, run out.
Cricketing intelligence demanded that he gave the strike back to de Villiers (75; 51b,6x4, 4x6) who was really tearing into the Mumbai bowling. Even otherwise, as non-striker racing down the track, his job was not to look towards wide long-on and Pollard, but to simply put his head down and run like the hare to try and squeeze out two runs. Instead he had one look at Pollard sprinting towards the ball and fled back to the safety of the batsman’s crease. De Villiers who was scampering for the second run was stunned to see his partner turn back and it was too late for him to regain the crease.
Akshdeep’s mind-numbing fear under pressure cost RCB at least 10 to 15 runs in that final over, as Hardik gleefully recounted post match. One would have expected someone who has been groomed from the under-19 level and experienced Ranji Trophy cricket for six years to have been smarter. But under pressure all his experience, training and cricketing logic flew out of the window and he went into a sudden brain freeze.
It was not the first time that RCB was being let down by its second rung players. Nor was it the last.
Negi, the left arm spinner bowling the 19th over was a wreck while bowling to Pandya. The ball was turning square on the pitch and middling it to muscle shots would have been tough for any batsman. Unfortunately, Negi was not thinking right. He hardly ever bothered to dry the ball, let alone try and fox Pandya. He bowled in a hurry, mechanically and all over the place. It was as though he just wanted to be done with the task, the outcome notwithstanding.
There was width, rank short-pitched deliveries, over compensated half volleys and even a wide offered as he suffered an instant melt down and conceded 22 runs in that 19th over. It was as though the very sight of Pandya had unnerved him.
RCB were just as unimaginatively shoddy at the start of the innings. A target of 172 was good enough for the bowlers to at least get their competitive juices flowing.
But it did not seem so. The fast bowlers Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj sprayed the ball and were taken to the cleaners by the left-right hand combination of Quinton de Kock and Rohit Sharma. They leaked runs on both sides of the wicket and either over-pitched or pitched it short to the extent that they were struggling to even come up with dot balls. A desperate Kohli had to summon Chahal after just four overs.
Now, seven defeats down the road, RCB has to take a very quick call on some of their players. They are too embarrassing even to watch. They just do not fit in this league. Simply put, some of these guys are too scared of even their own shadow. And that’s not helping the RCB cause; at least not in IPL T20 cricket.