One of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) videos that went viral on social media before the commencement of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 was titled the ‘yorker challenge’. The video shows each RCB bowler attempting to hit a target that is placed around the popping crease at the batsman’s end. While the bowlers go about their task the rest of the squad members sit alongside the pitch cheering each bowler on. It might not be the most creative of challenges, but the fact is Royal Challengers and bowling skills have never gone hand in hand.
Our bowling coach, Adam Griffith, comes up with a fun and challenging competition to help our bowlers fire in those yorkers.
Safe to say all our bowlers are sharpshooters! 🎯 😉#PlayBold #IPL2020 #WeAreChallengers pic.twitter.com/Nkjv97aQZc
— Royal Challengers Bangalore (@RCBTweets) September 13, 2020
For the duration of the IPL, Bangalore have always been a team that has built their foundation on batting. Their megastars have always been executioners that can wield their willows, but they have always found it difficult to find a series of bowlers that can perform at an admirable level. Before each season of IPL, the big question about the Royal Challengers is "they can always score the runs, but can they defend them?”.
IPL 2020 is different. Bangalore have won consistently matches on the back of their bowling. Last night they dismissed the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) for a paltry total of 84. The standout performer was Mohammad Siraj, who finished with figures of 3/8 from his four overs. It was Siraj’s only fourth match this season, but his control with the new ball was sublime as he sliced through the KKR's top-order.
Dismissing opposition teams or restricting them to low scores has never been RCB's strength, but this season they seemed to have spent plenty of hours mastering their skills with the ball. The yorker challenge was a great example of their vision and plan for the 13th edition of IPL. Not only yesterday's victory over KKR, but there have been at least three matches that RCB have won due to their bowling.
In the past, Royal Challengers have always looked to restrict the opposition during the powerplay, but this season they have been hunting for wickets. They started the season with Dale Steyn, now there are Navdeep Saini, Chris Morris, and Mohammad Siraj. All of them are genuine wicket-taking options with the new ball. While they have hunted for wickets, Washington Sundar has restricted the flow of runs with his crafty overs of spin. It has been a fine balance of attack and defence.
The coaching staff and Virat Kohli deserve a fair bit of credit for this. All of them have contributed to the shift in the mindset. No longer do they rely on AB de Villiers and Kohli for every occasion. They have learned to believe in Morris, Saini, Chahal, and Siraj. They have learned from their past mistakes. No longer is an opening spell of 1-30 in three overs from the likes of Umesh Yadav or others is acceptable. There has to be some control over the runs flow along with wicket-taking abilities.
The depth in the bowling stocks has allowed the Royal Challengers to tinker with playing XI according to the conditions. The pitch at Abu Dhabi has always shown an inclination towards aiding swing and seam with the new ball, so Siraj was preferred over Isuru Udana. Importantly, the coaching staff has identified that a certain type of bowler would prevail in specific conditions. After three overs, Siraj had justified his selection.
“It was a late call to be honest (to give Siraj the new ball). Was thinking of giving Washy. We had the option of the plan to start with Washi and bring Morris in the second over, then we thought let's give Siraj the new ball with Morris. Let him set the tone and then let Siraj try and swing the ball.” Kohli stated after the match.
In earlier matches, experts have raised their eyebrows over the inclusion of Udana, but his left arm angle along with his slow cutters has proved to be a masterstroke on the two-paced Dubai pitch. Overall their bowling plans have been more structured.
As Kohli stated after the KKR match, “the management has brought in a proper culture. We have a plan A, we have a plan B, and people are executing it that's why it's looking good”
There is no doubt there is a change in the Royal Challengers camp. They have identified that to win the tournament the bowling unit is equally vital as the batting. Kohli, De Villiers, and Aaron Finch will continue to win games with the willow, but they needed the Siraj like spells to ensure they can be dominant with the ball.
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