The Royal Challengers Bangalore are a star-packed side. Every season that they fall short of expectations, they keep adding more stars. When skipper Virat Kohli, arguably the brightest shining cricket star of our times, stands alongside AB de Villiers, one of the most dynamic players of modern day limited-overs cricket, you go weak in the knees.
The team has added new age Windies rising star Shimron Hetmyer to the squad this year. Marcus Stoinis, who was among the star players in the Big Bash League, has been traded in from Kings XI Punjab in lieu of Mandeep Singh. Shivam Dube, a big-hitting all-rounder who has the makings of a star, also finds himself in the mix, bought for an astonishing sum of 5 crore, given that this would be his first year in the IPL.
Had matches been won based on star power, RCB would certainly have been in contention for this year’s title.
But with the evolution of cricket, one has come to realise that it is how the team can garner resources to fit into very specific roles that ultimately helps them end on the right side of the line.
Look at Sunrisers Hyderabad for instance. Apart from David Warner who is expected to rejoin the team this season, they do not have a star which has the aura of a Virat Kohli or an AB de Villiers. But they have been performing consistently well year after year, and look a safe bet for a playoff berth with the squad that they have been able to rope in.
RCB have made a lot of mistakes in the past years. What’s worse is that they have not learn their lessons and are walking down the same lane yet again.
Still No Death Specialist
We have enough evidence – over the years in the IPL, and in the recent 1st T20I between India and Australia as well – to know that Umesh Yadav is not great at the death, which is fine. Not every bowler can be a master at something. He has the ability to pick wickets first up and that is a skill that very few people have.
Like last season, he can be expected to bowl three overs in the Powerplay and then would be brought back around the 11th or 12th over to complete his quota. Clearly, RCB have to look beyond him for death bowling.
After Nathan Coulter-Nile was injured last year, that team went for out of form all-rounder Corey Anderson; a move that did not make a whole lot of sense. Former New Zealand international Simon Doull kept harping on the fact that Anderson had hardly played a match in the entire year. He was not part of the national side, was not even playing grade cricket and hadn't bowled a great deal.
More so, he was given crucial overs at the death. Anderson was clearly short of match practice and did not have the variations to fall back on.
As a result, he was clobbered for a lot of runs that could have been avoided had RCB gone for a bowling all-rounder instead of a batting one.
Same was the case with Colin de Grandhomme, who unfortunately could not make a mark with the bat, but was used more as a bowler which is not his stronger suit.
Another strange move was not including Tim Southee in the initial matches even when the bowlers were struggling to stem the flow of runs in the slog overs. That was done in a bid to somehow accommodate wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock at the top of the order, despite having Parthiv Patel who later did a fine job for the team.
This year as well, they have picked Shimron Hetmyer for Rs 4.2 crore, and the fear is that they might just push to play an extra batter and at least one out of Southee and Coulter-Nile while have to sit out – which could prove to be a disaster.
Where is the Finisher?
Another major concern for the team last season was that their batting was top heavy. If Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers got out early, there was not much quality to follow, which is why the team struggled to finish matches.
Mandeep Singh was their designated finisher in the last season and proved his worth in a few matches. But he has been traded for Marcus Stoinis.
Again, Stoinis might have performed exceptionally well in the Big Bash this year but he did that at the top of the order. More so, Stoinis has a history of struggling against wrist spinners as he simply does not pick them from the hand.
Flawed Auction Strategy
A classic case of the flawed and almost strange way of how the Royal Challengers Bangalore management works came following an encounter against Kolkata Knight Riders in 2017 when they folded up for a meagre 49. Next season, they bought all four of KKR's bowlers – Nathan Coulter-Nile, Umesh Yadav, Colin de Grandhomme and Chris Woakes – who were responsible for their collapse.
If somebody had to ever put together a case study on things that should not be done in the auctions, this certainly will qualify as one. Players perform well in a certain match due to a lot of variants – the conditions, how the captain uses them, the tempo of the game, whether the team is bowling first or second and how hard the batters are going after the bowlers.
You cannot, like a whimsical child, put your finger on players and say that you want all of these. There is a lot more thinking that has to go behind selections and there must have been, but whatever it was, it clearly did not seem to work for them last year.
You have a gut feel that this would be another season full of chopping and changing for RCB. Hopefully, the magic of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers can compensate for their tactical slip-ups.
The mist will clear soon as RCB take the field for the opening match of this year's IPL against Chennai Super Kings on 23 March in Chennai.
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