One of the truisms of life is that it does not matter where you start but where you end. During this edition of the IPL, RCB started off in the lower rung of the table. I remember that after the second or third round, when they were languishing at the bottom, Rameez Raza had stated in an Extra Innings telecast that it was usual for the team to be in that position. He was not far off though! After all, Kohli has been captaining the team from 2013 onwards and rarely has it done anything not to warrant such remarks from commentators and experts. A lot of fans – of RCB and other franchises — I am sure, may have wondered after every IPL, with the exception of 2009 when they made the finals, why does a team with such a star-studded batting line-up never win the tournament.
The bowling conundrum
The weakness of the franchise had traditionally been its bowling, even more so when compared to the batting at its disposal. Even during this year’s tournament, there were many occasions when in Extra Innings Navjot Sidhu said that franchises win and lose at the auction table, probably referring – and rightly so – to the franchise’s penchant for marquee hitters. The team was hit hard by the withdrawal of first Mitchell Starc to injury before the tournament started and then Adam Milne. However, the team addressed those issues by bringing in Tabraiz Shamsi and Chris Jordan, who has so far proved his worth.
Rise of the Phoenix
I am sure that many would have once again thought – after the middle stage – that RCB was out of the equation yet again. However, it was from such a bad stage that the team managed to become the first entrant in the playoff stage and that in itself is a remarkable story. So, when KL Rahul says that they have already become champions in their mind he is absolutely justified in saying so.
The main players
Virat Kohli has been an inspiration with the bat scoring 35% of the team’s runs. He has been energetic in victories and gracious and supportive of his team mates in defeats. He has received exceptional support from AB de Villiers, who has been rated by Kohli as presently the best batsman in the world and who helped the team win in the eliminator against Gujarat Lions in a thrilling encounter. Also important are Shane Watson, who has shored up the bowling a lot, and KL Rahul, who has had a disastrous tournament as a keeper but an equally good one as a batsman. You also have Chris Gayle – the Universe Boss – who would like to play an innings of note on this day and show that he is worth the moniker he has awarded himself. If he fires, then RCB will not be stretched at all, even keeping in mind the quality that Sunrisers have.
Areas of problem
In spite of bringing in Jordan, bowling has been a major headache for the team with almost every bowler – with the exception of Yuzvendra Chahal – leaking lots of runs and lacking penetration. So, a lot will depend on the bowling unit, which needs to fire or at least be disciplined so that the batting unit can breathe a little easy. The team also needs to understand that there are days when the batting unit may not fire – and with the strongest bowling team in the tournament that the Sunrisers have it is a distinct possibility – and they may have to step up and be counted for rather than just live in the shadows of the batters. Varun Aaron, especially, needs to show his mettle. He has lost his place in the test team and this could very well be his last opportunity this season to show that it was a mistake.
A sense of déjà vu
Not many may remember but the last time RCB made to the finals they went up against Deccan Chargers, the predecessors of Sunrisers Hyderabad, whom the team faces this time. One hopes that Kohli remembers that and I could feel that he may be itching inside to avenge the loss of 2009.
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