Amidst all the criticism levied against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the past editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the side's bowling unit has had to bear the brunt of quite a few scathing remarks.
Despite boasting some big foreign imports and India internationals in the squad, the RCB bowling unit has often been subject to easy meme material for critics. And yet, this season's been quite different, for there's been a turnaround in fortunes.
For the first time in many years, there's been very little to complain about, and the change in fortunes has been orchestrated by a young man, who incidentally hails from the city that has fans who are arguably the RCB faithful's biggest rivals.
21-year-old off-spinner, Washington Sundar.
For a youngster who has pretty much bowled under the shadows of RCB heartthrob Yuzvendra Chahal, Sundar's impact with the shiny white ball has gone a long way in easing skipper Virat Kohli's issues in IPL 2020.
In 7 matches so far in IPL 2020, Sundar has five scalps to his name, but it's the economy rate that has had all pundits lauding the youngster's performance so far.
Sundar's economy rate this season (At the time of writing this piece) is just 4.90 RPO, beating the likes of Sunrisers Hyderabad's star spinner Rashid Khan (5.34) and his own RCB teammate, Yuzvendra Chahal (7.07).
Washington Sundar's impact in the powerplay overs
What's most impressive about Sundar's show so far is that most of his success - if not all of it - has come from within the powerplay stages. Notably, RCB skipper Kohli did not throw the ball to Sundar in the powerplay during the team's first two games against SRH and KXIP, but when he did turn to the offie against MI, there was no looking back.
Sundar bowled a grand total of three overs in the first two matches, but against a power-packed MI batting unit, Sundar finished with magical figures of 1/12 from four overs, including the big wicket of Rohit Sharma.
Since then, Sundar's added the prized scalps of CSK's Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis, KKR's Nitish Rana and Eoin Morgan to his wicket collection, with his subtle variations coming to the fore.
Out of the 22 overs that Sundar has bowled in IPL 2020, he's delivered a total of 51 dot balls - 38.6% of his deliveries have not been scored off. This, in turn, has forced the batsmen to go after the other bowlers in Chahal, Navdeep Saini, Isuru Udana and most recently, Chris Morris.
As a result, RCB have more often than not managed to peg the opposition back early with some wickets ahead of the half-way stage, with the prime example being the side's most recent matches, first against the Super Kings and then versus the Knight Riders.
Against CSK, Sundar made an impact in his very first over, inducing a false loft from Du Plessis that was pouched safely by Morris, and in his next over, the offie castled Watson to set the cat among the pigeons in the CSK camp.
From then on, CSK's middle-order fragilities were exposed as Ambati Rayudu and N Jagadeesan were forced to steady the ship, and eventually, they took it a little too late for their comfort.
As for the game versus KKR, although Sundar did bowl just the one over in the powerplay, he did break the backbone of the side with the scalps of Rana and Morgan. Dinesh Karthik and Andre Russell were forced to go big with the required run-rate climbing after every ball, and eventually, the duo perished in quick succession.
The IPL purple cap 2020 list has been updated, check here.
In the mould of a yesteryear RCB legend
Many many moons ago, RCB's bowling artillery comprised of one of the biggest weapons in world cricket - in the form of legendary spinner Anil Kumble.
Kumble was known for his variations with pace and length, and not necessarily as someone who would spin a web around the batsmen with degrees of turn. The leg-spinner's biggest strength was his trajectory and that he could beat the batsmen with his flight and pace.
Now, more than a decade since Kumble played his last game for RCB, Sundar has emerged as one of the most promising youngsters at skipper Kohli's disposal. And, every time Sundar is thrown the ball, he hasn't disappointed.
So far in this season, Sundar has hit hard lengths and batsmen have found it hard to score runs off him - a hallmark of a top T20 bowler. And, having shown maturity beyond his age at the halfway stage this season, there's no doubt that Sundar will play an imperative role in RCB's push for an elusive IPL title.Published 14 Oct 2020, 12:16 IST