IPL 2018: RCB bowling attack in ICU and needs immediate attention

Shankar Narayan

Problem

As he sits down in his hotel room and looks at the walls, the table and everything else in front and around him, Virat Kohli must be pondering what great sin he has committed to be in the present situation.

Seven games into the 2018 IPL, The Royal Challengers Bangalore find themselves in familiar territory because of familiar reasons- A so-called ‘bowling attack’ that can’t to neither restrict opposition nor defend any total.

The scenario with the team’s bowling is such that even as AB de Villiers was going great guns in the first half of the game last night, murmurs about how the Chennai Super Kings would still be in the game began to float around simply because of the frailties that exist in the oppositions's bowling arsenal.

The issue is not a new one for the franchise. Barely has a season gone by when RCB’s bowling group has not suffered, has not made the team lose matches they had no business losing.

Years went by, most teams evolved, but one thing remained constant: RCB leaking runs every single year.

The attack they picked in the hope it would not repeat past blemishes in the 2018 edition has also failed to deliver. In Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar, they had two spinners who were coming into the IPL in good form.

But since the time they wore the red shirt, the fortunes have turned around. In the 21 overs that he has bowled thus far in the competition, Chahal has given away 126 runs with six wickets, barely scraping into the Top 10 wicket-takers bracket.

In the 19 overs that Sundar has bowled, he has picked up four wickets. 

The most critical difference, however, is the economy rate.

In the Nidahas trophy that preceded the IPL, the duo bowled at the rate of 6.45 and 5.70 runs per over respectively and that reflected the team’s performance as well.

Both have gone for 8.04 and 9.31 runs per over respectively in the IPL so far and that has meant that Kohli has had to look elsewhere to stem the flow of runs.

That brings the fast bowlers into the picture.

For the flak he receives for being wayward in white-ball cricket, Umesh Yadav has shown he can be effective in the format if used properly.

Barring him, though, there is only one word written in the remainder of the pack: carnage.

Mohammad Siraj, so effective for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the previous season has been at the receiving end of runs. Chris Woakes has looked good, but the management want him from him.

But undeniably, the biggest culprit has been Corey Anderson. 

No longer a regular bowler for his country, the manner in which Kohli has backed him to bowl the critical overs despite repeated offenses has been baffling, to say the least.

That then leaves the RCB with one bowler who has been anywhere close to effective. It also leaves with Kohli with a lot to ponder, about combinations, about the talent at his disposal, about the faith he has in them.

For starters, he can look around and find that almost each of the other seven teams in the competition has one reliable death bowler.

Sunrisers Hyderabad have Bhuveneshwar Kumar. Super Kings have Dwayne Bravo. Kings XI Punjab have Andrew Tye. 

What do RCB have? None as good as any of them.

Secondly, how does Kohli get the best out of Sundar and Chahal to stem the flow of runs? Both bowlers have been used in the Powerplay. Both have not been effective.

Can he then start with an all-pace combination and bring the spinners on later? Perhaps.

Does he use more part-timers, a ploy that has worked for MS Dhoni in the past to add the element of unpredictability to the attack?

The pitch at the Chinnaswamy might have produced a lot of runs, but at the end of most matches, players have been heard giving comments about how stroke-making was not as easy as it looked.

RCB have used Pawan Negi as the third spinner, but have gained nothing out of it yet.

The attack right now is in Intensive Care Unit, hoping desperately to spring back to life and back the vibe of the batting. The scars are deep and wide and it requires immediate recovery, not just any small strapping.

None can clap merely with one hand and as much as Kohli, de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and others have the ability to put big scores on the board or back themselves to chase it down, it is not humanely possible to do match-after-match.

How Kohli lifts the side, how the bowling consultant Ashish Nehra brings all his experience into play and turns things around remains to be seen. Else the team would be left with another season to rue.