The decision to drop Chris Gayle from the playing eleven must have been Royal Challengers Bangalore's toughest call. But in reality, the option to dilute their envious overseas batting strength to shore up a weak bowling was only one of their two worst fears come true. The other was a recurring nightmare since the past two seasons: Their middle order's inability to make an impact at a critical stage of an IPL match, and it also came alive to haunt them on Saturday.
RCB have had a rough time on the road for their last four matches, their bowling exposed and their batsmen struggling on the sluggish away pitches against Mumbai Indians, Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions. But that excuse did not hold good in Hyderabad, where the match against the Sunrisers was a high scoring one, despite the outfield being larger than the one they were used to at their home base of M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
On Saturday night, RCB could have brought Gayle back into the playing XI. But they decided against it, and instead chose to have three overseas bowlers in the mix: Speedster Kane Richardson, all-rounder Shane Watson and tweaker Tabraiz Shamsi. But the bowling unit still collapsed in the face of a sustained assault by David Warner (92 from 50 balls, 9x4, 5x6). The late bludgeoning by Moises Henriques (31, 14 b, 1x4, 3x6) decisively rammed home SRH's advantage.
RCB, who have struggled with an unsettled playing eleven, once again made four changes: Harshal Patel, Sachin Baby, Varun Aaron and Pervez Rasool were brought in for Stuart Binny, Sarfaraz Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal and Iqbal Abdulah.
The choice of Patel was strange. He has hardly bowled a decent spell this season, but has been persisted with only because he can move the ball a bit and bowl at around 140 kmph, an obsessive speed with some think tanks. On the flip side though, he has had issues with no-balls and wides and has hardly developed the skills to become a reasonably tough T20 customer. Skipper Virat Kohli entrusted him with just one over, the sixth of the innings, and that was enough to open the floodgates.
Until then, Richardson, Watson, Rasool and Aaron had done reasonably well to tie SRH down to 33 for 1 from five overs, and importantly, had kept Warner quiet. But the advent of Patel to the bowling crease was just the catalyst to give an impetus to the Hyderabad innings. He bowled a no-ball that went for four — the resultant free hit was slammed for a six — and a wide in that sixth over. The 16 runs conceded ensured the honours of that PowerPlay went with the home team.
After that, it was very difficult for any RCB bowler to put a check on the rampaging Warner. His bat-speed, nimble footedness and aggression never flagged, and just when RCB thought they could heave a sigh of relief with his dismissal in the 16th over, Henriques came along to crush their spirits.
A target of 195 would have been within reach only if all the RCB big guns had fired. But that was not to be. Kohli, who has had a sensational run this IPL with scores of 75, 79, 33, 80 and 100 not-out, failed for the first time in six matches to cast a sense of gloom in the RCB camp. However, with KL Rahul (51, 28b, 6x4, 1x6) batting brilliantly and AB de Villiers (47, 32b, 3x4, 2x6), hanging around despite being unusually patchy, RCB had a chance. The Indian opener's dismissal followed by an unfortunate run-out of Watson swung the match back in SRH's favour.
De Villiers' dismissal in the 15th over with the team requiring a further 66 runs was a death blow as none of the others — Kedar Jadhav, Sachin Baby or Pervez Rasool — were capable of the sort of power-hitting required to take the team home. This was a familiar failing for RCB in the previous years as well; after the wickets of Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers, they didn't have the batsmen to sustain the scoring rate. This year, with the inclusion of Watson and Binny, it was expected that the middle order would fire. But that has not happened, as in an attempt to strengthen the bowling, the batting line-up had to be sacrificed.
RCB urgently need to get their mix right in the remaining eight matches if they are to make a fist of this season.
Updated Date: May 01, 2016 10:30 AM