The most remarkable aspect of Royal Challengers Bangalore's third win of this season's IPL was the clinical efficiency with which it was plotted and executed. The strategic approach used to lower Rising Pune Supergiants' colours deserves to be talked about. And skipper Virat Kohli's own frank and dispassionate elaboration summarises it the best.
But let us first pause to marvel at the might of RCB's fabulous batting line-up which, powered by the irrepressible Kohli's undefeated 108, descended like the crushing blow of a hammer to flatten RPS on Saturday. On past occasions, RCB had flattered to deceive, including in that match against Sunrisers Hyderabad, where their batsmen failed to chase down 194. After that 15-run defeat, some wags had derisively described RCB as a "team of individuals who can't bowl, field and now even bat".
But as yet another jam-packed M Chinaswamy Stadium witnessed on Saturday; those barbs were for ghosts of the past. Chasing a target for only the second time this season, RCB stole the thunder from a hapless RPS, who would have been happy with their first innings total of 191 for 6.
But RCB were playing to a plan, as Kohli pointedly spelt out at the media briefing after the match. "Chris Gayle was not rested. KL (Rahul) and I were already batting very well at the top and hence we kept Gayle out of the playing XI and went in with Travis Head. He (Head) had batted well against Mumbai in the middle-order. Besides, he could bowl off-spin if need be against RPG's three left handers," Kohli explained.
The fact that he was not averse even to dropping a proven match-winner like Gayle, a non-performer this season, should have shaken the RCB players out of their comfort zone. But strangely, the move, instead of motivating them to play out of their skins, made them field like a bunch of nervous schoolboys. The fielders dropped catches, missed run-outs, stumpings and misfielded with sickening regularity to add further pressure on an already embattled bowling unit. Kohli, who in this match, fielded most of the time within the inner circle and actively coordinated with his bowlers, was at his wits end with these shocking lapses.
"It was frustrating the way we fielded. A makeshift wicket-keeper like Rahul is prone to making mistakes at key moments. The only other option is to get AB de Villiers to do that job. But I can't afford to do that. He is one of only three or four outstanding fielders I can depend on in this team. I can't sacrifice him for wicket-keeping," he said.
However, what was further revealing was the ruthless cold logic with which he settled the argument for the middle-order slot between competing Indian batsman. He said T20 cricket was not just about batting. It also called for aggressive running between the wickets and fielding. "I feel Sachin Baby scored over Sarfaraz Khan in all three parameters," he said brusquely.
Having packed their team with aggressive stroke players, RCB were confident in the belief that they could chase down any target set by RPS.
Of course, there was the pressure such a huge target created and this was evident till the 13th over. But RCB had batted to a plan and established an impressive launchpad throughout the 94-run opening partnership between Kohli, who was playing himself in, and Rahul (38, 35b, 1x4, 2x6). ABD fell cheaply and by the end of the 13th over, RCB were 103 for two, requiring a further 89 runs from just seven overs.
Lesser batting line-ups would have baulked at the prospect. But not RCB. As Kohli revealed, "Shane Watson asked me 'what now' as he walked in to bat. I told him to go for it."
He was confident that even if Watson failed, Head, Stuart Binny, Sachin Baby and IPL debutant Chris Jordan could help make a spirited dash past the finish line. But it wasn't to be a worry as Watson turned the match on its head with a pulverising 36 off just 13 balls (5x4, 2x6). "It was his finest innings for any franchise," reckoned a gushing Kohli. Watson smacked Thisara Perera for five boundaries in the 14th over and a desperate Mahendra Singh Dhoni turned to Rajat Bhatia. "I knew this was a crucial over and had to out-think Rajat. I knew he would not give me width because I could cut him. I hammered the first ball to the fence and Watson took over from there," said Kohli.
The skipper, who was on 63 at the time of Watson's dismissal, took over the role of executioner and smashed Adam Zampa and RP Singh for 18 runs apiece in the 18th and 19th overs to put the issue beyond doubt. Kohli's unbeaten 108 (58b, 8x4, 7x6) was exceptional for the manner in which he changed gears and went into overdrive. It was done with the smooth flourish that only a maestro could have mustered. The win gave RCB fans something to look forward to and also sent a message to opposition teams: "We have what it takes to outsmart you."
Updated Date: May 08, 2016 09:20 AM