The Challenges of the Royal Challengers

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Royal Challengers Squad and support staff thanking their ever-faithful fans.

The Indian Premier League 2018 is a carnival that offers entertainment, drama, and hopes. The Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) were one such team that entered into the league carrying a bundle of hopes.

Having completed a decade of journey, RCB had provided their fans with numerous memories, those humongous sixes from Gayle’s bat, hurling through the roof-tops of Chinnaswamy, the time when AB de Villiers decided to treat his Proteas teammate Dale Steyn as a mere mortal, those unrealistic comebacks under the captaincy of Anil Kumble and Virat Kohli, the heartbreak of reaching the finals thrice and falling short each time, were now all part of the history books and yet as Andy Dufresne told Red in The Shawshank Redemption - Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and, no good thing ever dies, the inextinguishable flame of lifting the trophy continued to burn.

RETENTION, Right To Match (RTM), AUCTIONS

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What RCB fans wanted, what transpired.

Retention strategy

Every RCB fan wanted Virat and ABD to be retained along with K L Rahul or Yuzvendra Chahal but having stalwarts like Kohli and ABD comes at a cost, add auction aspirations into the mix, it resulted in RCB management trusting Sarfaraz as the third choice for retention, owing to a 90 ball 132 in a practice match for NCA XI.

Auction-RTM Strategy

  • Frugal is the word that would best describe RCB’s auction strategy, having spent 31 Cr INR on three batsmen as part of retention, RCB chose to stay away from big buys and prioritized on depth and bench strength in their buys.
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RCB shares the top spot along with DD — Teams with frugal top 5 buys
  • While RCB used one of its RTM on Chahal, Rahul going for a whopping 11 Crores meant RCB faced a blue pill-red pill situation of letting go or opting for a big buy, RCB refrained themselves from using the RTM, which could’ve made a huge dent in their purse, 42 Cr for 4 batsmen to be specific instead it was used on Pawan Negi who was the highest wicket-taker for RCB in 2017.
  • Having retained 3 batsmen and looking to end their bowling woes, RCB management beefed up the pace department with as many as 7 pacers.
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RCB’s Investment ; AR — All Rounders
  • RCB joined the club of not opting to bid for young under-19 players while teams like Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders enjoyed the service of youth and will look to build on them in the future years.

2018 struggles

  • Starting Troubles: Despite having 6 batsmen capable of opening the innings, none of their opening pairs were able to consolidate each other, eventually trying out 7 opening pairs of which even Moeen Ali was part of.
  • Inconsistency: Bowling has always been the blame child of RCB. This year though batting has an equal share, as it never really took off and just seemed to lack the firepower.
  • Over-reliance: As much as RCB would like to deny it, RCB have been and will continue to be reliant on Kohli and de Villiers, but what is more is concerning is neither of them tried to play out 20 overs, while de Villiers has been going all guns blazing from ball one, Kohli had an average tournament for his stature.

Find of the year

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Credits: RCB twitter account

One could say Umesh Yadav is the best thing that happened to RCB in 2018. Despite going wicketless in two matches, he ended up grabbing 20 wickets of which 14 came in the powerplay overs, at an economy of 7.86, making him one among the best powerplay bowlers of the tournament

Management Woes

  • Replacement goof-up: When a player gets injured teams tend to go for like-to-like replacements. When Nathan Coulter-Nile, the tall Aussie pacer was declared unavailable due to injury concerns, RCB management chose to replace him with Kiwi all-rounder Corey Anderson, trying to make up for their lack of finishing options. While the idea might have been right, Anderson himself had little cricket behind him, looking to make a comeback after an injury. To everyone’s surprise, Anderson not only went on to be picked ahead of Colin de Grandhomme but was even used as a death bowler.
  • 5-bowling options: At the start of the tournament, RCB opted to field just five bowling options, reasoning it out as, adding extra responsibility to the bowlers to hit the right lines and lengths. As inspirational as it might sound in theory, it makes little sense to have just five bowling options in a format like T-20, where even the best of bowlers might have a bad day.
  • Lack of preparation: RCB were welcomed into their 2018 campaign by 17 balls 50 from Sunil Narine, this was not the first time RCB had faced Narine’s wrath, a 15 ball 50 in 2017 should’ve been fresh in their minds but Kohli had failed to do his homework and the bowlers seemed to be clueless; In the same match Dinesh Karthik tied up RCB’s openers by employing just spin in the powerplay, displaying two extreme ends of preparation.

RCB management headed by coach Daniel Vettori failed to play a proactive role in either bringing new ideas to the table or exploring available options and rather confined themselves to a reactive role,which was quite evident when Mandeep Singh, who usually opens for Punjab in the shorter formats was asked to play the role of a finisher.

What Next?

There are a lot of holes to plug for RCB, they can start off by filling the biggest one, a change in management, making Gary Kirsten as the head coach, whose achievements as a coach needs no introduction.

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Credits: RCB twitter account

While Nathan Coulter-Nile would be expected to come back in place of Corey Anderson, it should be seen if a stand is taken on Sarfaraz Khan or if the young batsman is given another go, with captain Kohli publicly admitting the middle order woes need to be addressed.

There was a call of anguish from some fans for a change in captaincy. At occasions, Kohli did fail to impress, looking drained out from leading the national team in all three formats, however, fans do have to remember that Kohli is someone who looks to lead from the front, thriving under pressure, who single-handedly took the team into finals in 2016. Unless Kohli himself takes a call, he’s still the best man to lead the team.

RCB’s road ahead will definitely be uphill, however, a few smart buys, few players stepping up, and team effort can turn the dream of lifting their maiden IPL trophy into reality.

The ever faithful RCB fans will continue to hope so, as they like to believe every year reiterating it with the mantra, “Ee Sala Cup Namdhe.” (This time, the cup is Ours)

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