What is the probability that six international batsmen with proven records could be simultaneously laid low by poor form and bad luck? Certainly, that cold piece of statistic will not give Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) any comfort. Instead, the fact that Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Moeen Ali, Shimron Hetmyer, Marcus Stoinis and Colin de Grandhomme between them have just one knock of fifty in 20 innings would be their worst nightmare come true.
But for ABD’s 70 not-out against Mumbai Indians and Kohli’s 46 in the same match, none of the other 18 innings has seen a score even approaching a fifty. So much so, Parthiv Patel, who is not even among the top 30 batsmen in India, let alone in international cricket, is the best performing RCB batsman!
It is not that he has set the stands on fire. But his scores of 67, 11, 31, 29 aggregates more than double the number of runs put together by Hetmyer (1, 9, 5, 0), Moeen Ali (18 n,o, 2, 13, 9) and Grandhomme (37, 2, 4). It is almost double of Kohli's aggregate (23, 3, 46, 6).
The reality that Patel, hardly the epitome of a T20 batsman, is RCB’s best-performing batsman, tells the tale of misery that the team is going through. Surprisingly, and unfortunately, all the main batsmen have got into a rough patch at the same time and this is hurting the team’s chances very badly.
Make no mistake; RCB’s batting line-up is a classy one, arguably the best in this edition of IPL, but they have not delivered, at least in the first four matches. It is true that in this tournament conducted in the heat, humidity, and dewfall of a scorching Indian summer, teams need the staying powers of a champion long distance runner. Peaking at the right time is critical for the finishing kick. No team can afford to peak too soon or too late.
For RCB fans, the consolation is that their team is just four matches into the event and has another 10 league matches to look forward to. However, momentum propels the challenge in T20 cricket and unless RCB’s batsmen pull up their socks very quickly, they’d find themselves out of the tournament before they even started!
True, RCB’s bowling and fielding have left a lot to be desired. In the match against Rajasthan Royals on Tuesday night, the butter-fingered fielders dropped five catches and missed at least two easy run outs. The bowlers, particularly the pacers, too sprayed the ball around, offering unpardonable width and length regularly.
But it is the batting which has been the main culprit in the team’s four losses. Sure, that match against Mumbai Indians will be remembered for the no-ball off the last ball which was not called. It was the only match that ABD and Kohli struck a partnership together and almost took the team to victory. But the other batsmen, Hetmyer, Moeen Ali, and Grandhomme failed to step up when it was most needed and this adversely affected the team’s ability to put it across Mumbai.
Initially, when the team was dismissed for 70 in the first match by CSK, it was felt that the latter had ambushed the foreign stroke-players and caught them napping on a slow, low, turning track. But subsequent events have proved that the malaise went much deeper than just stumbling in the face of a slow pitch.
Why, for instance, have Kohli or ABD, the ones most experienced in playing in IPL, and on Indian pitches, not taken it upon themselves to bat deep into the innings? In such a scenario the others could bat around them and get the team to a decent total. ABD did it against Mumbai and almost took the side to victory. However, once in every four matches is hardly a picture of consistency. Nor is it good enough to serve RCB’s cause.
Here, it would be pertinent to point out that this is not the end of the road for RCB. Teams have come back from worse positions. The IPL format is such that a team can afford to lose six or even seven matches and still make it to the top four. But to get there, RCB batsmen simply need to show greater intensity. It is probably to RCB’s advantage that their next couple of matches are to be played in Bengaluru where the pitch favours batsmen a great deal. It would make good sense for the team’s star batsmen to put their failures behind them, take fresh guard and bat in a manner befitting their status. Else, Kohli and Co could get an earlier and longer break in the run-up to the World Cup!