Momentum is a double-edged sword as Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) found out to their dismay. When a team is on a winning roll the sweet taste of victory can lift even laggards. But when defeats multiply, Murphy’s Law — everything that can go wrong will – kicks in.
RCB, on a losing streak, have no place to hide. They have been brutally exposed by the scheduling which was adjusted to accommodate election campaigning, attendant security detail, polling dates, etc. Other teams too would be similarly impacted, but what makes things hard on RCB is the unexpected run of back-to-back losses.
The scheduling ensured that RCB played five matches in eleven days — from 28 March when they took on Mumbai Indians (MI) at home till Sunday evening (7 April) when they capitulated to Delhi Capitals (DC). That is a game nearly every alternate day. This ensured that they had no time to recover or recoup from one loss before they were pushed into the next game. (Incidentally RCB’s next match at home is only on 21 April, after the first phase of polling in Karnataka.)
Tragically, the team has not been able to shrug off the depressing string of losses as nothing is going right. Their famed batting’s collective failure, indifferent bowling, and horrendous fielding have come together in a rush to make this one of their most atrocious starts to an IPL season.
Theoretically, the team still stands a chance of making the top four. But with each passing match, the confidence in its personnel to make a fist of it is ebbing away rapidly.
The fielding is not only painful to watch, but it is also hurting the team’s chances so badly that even the staunchest of supporters would get disillusioned. On Sunday Tim Southee got a breakthrough when he got rid of the dangerous Shikhar Dhawan in the first over of the innings. In that same over he had DC’s skipper Shreyas Iyer edging a fairly simple catch to wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel. But the keeper who is flatfooted with his weight on the heels rather than the balls of his feet seemed ponderous and laborious in accepting the catch. He struck out his right glove rather stiffly and unconvincingly to floor a simple chance. It was the clearest indication that he was way past his use-by date and as the evening unfolded only reconfirmed it all over again.
There was another occasion when he simply was not quick enough to get to another Shreyas Iyer lobbed, miscued top-edged sweep. The DC batsman, lucky to survive reprieves, top scored with 67 in his team’s four-wicket win while chasing 150.
It is not just Parthiv who looks ill-equipped for the job. It is embarrassing to watch Mohammed Siraj too on the field. It is obvious from the way he moves and positions himself that he has not been taught even elementary things about fielding. He goes down on one knee like a left-hand thrower would — he is right-handed, by the way — to make it obvious that the rudiments of the game were not drilled into him at a young age.
His talent as a bowler has taken him far. But now on the big stage, in the company of some of the best cricketers in the world, his lack of a thorough grasp of basics is affecting the team. It is not just with his bowling, where he is apt to spray the ball without adhering to situational needs, his fielding too is pedestrian.
He dropped two sitters against KKR while against DC his work in the outfield was shoddy. He gifted away runs that RCB could ill afford.
Batsmen can get back to form while bowlers could fine-tune their skills. But a fielder whose basics are wrong will always struggle. At crucial times, his fumbling, dropping, and poor skills will let the team down.
Parthiv and Siraj are by no means the only ones dropping catches or making a mess on the field. But their goof-ups are hurting the team as they seem to have an uncanny knack of being charitable to the most dangerous player in the opposition.
Moeen Ali confessed after the match that the team was hurting because it was making the same mistakes. This is not surprising because it is the same personnel with their faulty basics who are repeatedly found wanting.
“We’ve told ourselves to be relaxed and go out there and enjoy ourselves. We have done things well, with bat and ball but somehow have not maintained the same intensity over 20 overs. That is hurting us badly in close games,” he pointed out.
Indeed, how can RCB maintain intensity when their fielders have dropped the maximum number of catches, misfielded often enough to ease the pressure on the opposition and overthrown or thrown to the wrong end with embarrassing frequency? If these were not damaging enough, bowlers have sprayed the ball or have sent down wides and no-balls often enough to make this year’s campaign look embarrassingly amateurish.
RCB’s slip is showing. And it is not a pretty sight!
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