Royal Challengers Bangalore will identify the match against Mumbai Indians as the turning point as they look back at their eminently forgettable tenth season of IPL. They had MI on the mat at 7 for 4 and 33 for 5 before fielding lapses and an inability to close out the match cost them dear.
The loss massively dented RCB’s confidence. Additionally, poor bowling by Shane Watson and Adam Milne at the death in the very next match against Rising Pune Supergiant saw RCB really losing momentum.
The last straw was that pathetic batting display in the match against Kolkata Knight Riders when the famed lineup, chasing a meagre target of 132, was shot out for a miserable 49 in less than 10 overs.
That batting performance was a real shocker and destroyed whatever was left of RCB’s confidence. Their batsmen were never the same and moved around like zombies after that.
It was not until the last match against Delhi Daredevils that they regained their smiles. They squeezed out a narrow 10-run win in an inconsequential match. But the win did so much to brighten the mood of the team.
Virat Kohli could not stop smiling and the manner in which he and the rest of the team celebrated was a telling commentary of how much the win mattered to them, especially as they had gone through without tasting success for almost a month.
Kohli and Chris Gayle batted well. But it was the bowling of debutant pacer Avesh Khan, experienced Harshal Patel and spinner Pawan Negi that clinched the day. The consolation win helped RCB finished the league with seven points.
While RCB’s bowling this season was an improvement over the past years, it was the complete disintegration of the batting lineup that was the root cause of the failure. They had a sensational lineup, complete with IPL legends: Kohli, AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, Watson, not to mention Big Bash star Travis Head.
However, inexplicably, this enviable assembly of batting superstars collectively flopped. Not one of them, or anybody else in their batting card, made a century in 14 matches. And that is a telling commentary of RCB’s performance.
Skipper Kohli was brilliant last year, scoring 973 runs with four centuries, seven fifties, at an average 81.08 and strike rate of 152. In comparison this year was a disaster. He scored less than 1/3rd of his last year’s aggregate — 308 runs with just four fifties, an average of 30.8 and at 122.2. The 51 runs per innings drop in average was shocking.
De Villiers was just as disappointing, scoring just 216 runs in comparison to the 687 he made last year. The numbers did not look good for the other big guns either. Gayle had another indifferent season, just 200 runs and one knock of above 50 while Watson made a disappointing 71 runs with a top score of 24.
The Indian batsmen too flopped just as badly. Mandeep Singh (188 runs; one fifty), Kedar Jadhav (267 runs; one fifty), Stuart Binny (78 runs; highest score of 18 n.o.), Sachin Baby (15 runs, highest score of 12), Vishnu Vinod (19 runs, highest score of nine) just did not have it in them to make a difference. None of them really fired and this had enormous repercussions on RCB’s challenge.
Of course the team was ravaged by injuries. Kohli and de Villiers missed the early matches while another main batsman, KL Rahul, was injured and ruled out of the equation before the start of the season. Sarfaraz Khan too missed out the season owing to an injury suffered in a practice game.
These injuries were a setback no doubt. But RCB had enough firepower, at least on paper, to make light of it. But it never happened and the entire season was one long nightmare.
The gains were in the bowling department. Samuel Badree and Yuzvendra Chahal were outstanding. They were two of the most aggressive spinners in the IPL and came good in every match. Badree, except when he was mauled by fellow West Indian Sunil Narine, was brilliant in the powerplay overs. Chahal was fearless and enhanced his reputation as one of the finest T20 spinners.
Another one to make a mark was Pawan Negi. He played a couple of cameos down the order while his left-arm spin bowling held up very well under pressure. He picked up 16 wickets and has the makings of a very good all-rounder.
Two other bowlers who impressed in the limited opportunities they got were pacemen, Aniket Choudhary and Avesh Khan. A lot will be heard of them in the near future.
But bowling alone does not a team make. RCB batsmen’s failure was the singular reason for the collapse of the team. It led to a disastrous season. The failures will drag the marketability of the superstars at the next auction and may be even haunt them for some time at least.
Updated Date: May 15, 2017 10:50 AM