Royal Challengers Bangalore could just as well be called Royally Challenged Bangalore. It has been that sort of a season. Their outings have been the very embodiment of cricketing wisdom, but with a twist.
In the initial matches when their fielders came out with fingers excessively coated with butter an eternal cricketing adage was instantly recalled: “Catches win matches”. As the season unfolded they nearly got that sorted out, but then the bowlers chose to deviate from the script.
Shane Watson unwisely switched to bowling length and half-volleys and was given the treatment by Manoj Tiwary during the course of a sudden, unexpected loss to Rising Pune Supergiant. There were other bowling goof-ups also in early matches.
But on Sunday, against Kolkata Knight Riders, when the fielders and bowlers got it right the batsmen tripped up. They probably decided that it was their turn to commit hara kiri. And, what better setting to enact this than in the biggest stage in India. Their efforts, or the lack of it, drew fantastic cheers from a singularly derisive crowd!
Thus, this season, the Royally Challenged team has seen opponents in the eye and yielded ground whether batting, bowling or fielding. Its inability to bring to a match its ‘A’ game in all three departments has stood out like a sore thumb and thus severely dented its chances of advancing.
But is the semifinal doors shut for RCB? I would not venture to guess. Stranger things have happened in the game and to write off a team flush with heavy-weights would be silly, especially as the equation calls for just another five wins from the remaining seven matches.
However, momentum is crucial and RCB at this stage does not know where its next win would come from. Matches follow in such rapid succession that there is little time to ponder over what might have been. For instance, in the nine days between 23 April and 1 May, RCB are scheduled to play five matches i.e. one every alternate day. This rapid roll out of matches is the reason the match against KKR was so important. Had RCB won they could have taken the momentum and positive mood into the clutch of matches. And who knows where it could have taken them?
Instead, the fear of failure would dog them all along. This would work against the grain of T20 cricket where fearless batting is the very essence.
The KKR-RCB match, though, was as enigmatic as an IPL match can get. Barring pinch hitter Sunil Narine who opened the batting and smashed 34 runs in no time, none of the other 21 batsmen made a score above 20! KKR’s next best score was 18 by tailender Chris Woakes. RCB was worse. Their top scorer was Kedar Jadhav with nine runs!
The manner in which the teams collapsed too is a study in contrast. KKR found the RCB spin confounding while the latter found the former’s pacers too hot to handle.
The approach of RCB’s top batsmen who repeatedly tried to hit their way out of trouble was puzzling. They were chasing a relatively small target of 132. The early loss of skipper Virat Kohli, out to a golden duck, was a blow no doubt. But there was enough firepower to ride out that crisis.
The batsmen however chose to take on the fast bowlers on a pitch freshened by a light rain which fell just before the break. It led to disastrous consequences.
Much like aquaplaning, which pilots landing an aircraft dread, the ball skidded off at an alarming pace and Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Mandeep Singh and Kedar Jadhav all mistimed their strokes to be dismissed. The rest were overwhelmed by momentum and pressure.
Why RCB’s batsmen tried to take the bowling head-on, especially during the initial overs is difficult to fathom. An asking rate of 6.6 in T20 cricket is like a walk in the park. The batsmen could have seen off the initial threat and milked their way to the target. Instead, injudicious stroke play caused the loss of early wickets and the match.
RCB getting bowled out for 49 in 9.4 overs was certainly a crying shame. They are now strapped with the unwanted record of lowest ever team total in IPL history. Actually it sums up much of their performance this season.
Updated Date: Apr 24, 2017 11:21 AM