Royal Challengers Bangalore: Will the middle order please stand up?
Royal Challengers Bangalore's stars have failed to perform, and worse still, the team hasn't shown the intent to take hard hitting decisions which are needed urgently in IPL
It must be difficult being in the Royal Challengers dugout at the moment. The questions they face aren’t new to the IPL, or to cricket itself. Every team to have ever played the game has had streaks where they sit down and ask, “Why?” game after game and the question is inevitably followed by silence. But there is something exceedingly daunting about RCB’s dilemma.
At the forefront is the reputation of their batting line-up. Not the line-up’s poor form itself, but the reputation it has wrongfully attracted as the best in the tournament by virtue of its market price. And so, we will not discuss the bowling this time.
On a perfect day, Chris Gayle will score a hundred before the second strategic time-out, supported by a well-paced Kohli fifty studded with three shots you won’t forget till the end of the tournament; AB de Villiers and Yuvraj will combine to score sixty runs in the last three and finish things off. Problem is, any amount of money can buy you those names, but none of it will buy you nine perfect days in the IPL. Which is why the concept of emerging Indian talent can’t continue to be as understated as it is.
Anyone could mention this to the Royal Challengers; and if they muster a reasonable argument, it will be evidence of the frightening sense of serenity they seem to have. They haven’t gone out of their way to get the best out of what is available and they do not have a championship-material line-up; this reality has been conveniently blanketed.
After the loss to Punjab, Kohli kept with his pattern of being a positive-minded leader and said the prospect of every match being a must-win encounter henceforth might be a blessing in disguise for them. An admirable thought, no doubt, but yet another one that elucidates the effect of that reputation. Having said that, they would do well to use that pressure to bring in some changes.
For one, Yuvraj should not be batting where he is. The world has witnessed – and largely contributed to – the duress he has been under . Number six is not the role Yuvraj should be playing in a team whose batting ends at five-down. Many expected RCB’s acquisition of Yuvraj to be his way back to being the nonchalant, streamlined, destructive giant he once was. It’s about time the management back him to be exactly that because he looks more handicapped than ever when he’s trying to steer a sinking ship.
It makes you wonder if a Ray Jennings or an Anil Kumble would have let things run away from their grip this easily. But that is a debate for another day. Right now, some show of intent is imperative and it has to revolve around making sure Virat Kohli sees himself in the middle during the fifteenth over. A couple of weeks ago, it was inconceivable in anyone’s mind that it was possible for Virat Kohli to ever be out of form, let alone register three ducks and not a single fifty in eight innings. Should he open? Drop down to four, maybe five, and let de Villiers exploit his form to its entirety?
Chris Gayle has been another concern. When fit and in his element, he is unstoppable. If not, RCB are slowly learning what a burden he can be if he doesn’t get a few out of the middle early on. Against Punjab, RCB had run only two singles halfway through the sixth over – they’d hit six boundaries, a total of eight scoring shots – in a chase of ten per over.
Maybe a Takawale in the opening pair could change that while still providing enough boundaries. This would mean pushing Gayle down the order like they have in the past, with a spread field and the ball not moving about recklessly. Do they have the gumption? The possibilities are aplenty for Vettori and his men if only they go looking for them.
To be fair to them, RCB doesn’t have a world to pick from as far as their bench is concerned. They would easily be excused at the end of the season if they do not make the qualifiers, because this team didn’t look like it had the depth to make it the distance at the beginning of the season. But there has been a distinct, almost ridiculous lack of intent with this team that is certainly reminiscent of their first ever season. Someone needs to walk into a team meeting and say the seniors haven’t been used to their optimum. After all, the four names that supposedly made them the strongest outfit are the ones that haven’t shown up often enough.
There is still time and there is certainly no lack of ability. But is there a desire? The recipe book is opened to “tough decisions” and the Royal Challengers have to make them.