One of the most followed teams in the Indian Premier League, the Royal Challengers Bangalore have often flattered to deceive and is one of the very few teams to have not won the title yet.
Despite boasting some big names in the past, RCB has failed to find a winning formula unlike Mumbai Indians or Chennai Super Kings. And yet RCB’s fan following hasn’t gone down despite all so many failures in all these IPL seasons. They have reached the finals on three occasions but have also failed to qualify for the play-offs in seven seasons.
Virat Kohli’s side has started well in this year’s IPL with five wins out of six matches. So, what have they done differently this season when compared to previous ones? Here are a few reasons:
Focus on bowling
Teams that have won the IPL title have always had good bowlers, especially those who can hold their nerve in the death overs. RCB’s key focus and strategy at the auctions have always been batting with less importance to bowling. Even though they score a lot of runs, their bowling meant that they finish second on many occasions.
It’s been very different this season for RCB. In quite a few games, they have gone in with as many as seven bowling options which have come in handy. When one of your main bowlers is having a bad day, there needs to be a backup and so far, that has been in abundance for Kohli.
One of the most impressive aspects of this year’s campaign for RCB has been their death bowling. The pre-season trade to get Harshal Patel has proven a masterstroke, as he is the Purple Cap holder and barring one 37-run over when Ravindra Jadeja tore into hum, the seamer has been terrific at the death. On top of this, the emergence of Mohammad Siraj has given RCB a lot of teeth with the new ball as well as in the end overs. He held his nerve against Delhi Capitals that saw RCB win the match by one run.
Playing as a team
There was a feeling from far that the side was giving too much prominence to few individuals to get the job done and when they failed, there was no one else good enough. But that does not seem to be the case so far.
The responsibility has been put on the young Indian players in crunch situations and they have delivered. Harshal, Devdutt Padikkal and on a few occasions Rajat Paditar too has been given the key roles. They seem to enjoy the challenge and have been able to put their hands up for the team.
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One of the classic examples was the match against Delhi. Kohli had 16 runs to defend off the final over against the rampaging Shimron Hetmyer and Rishabh Pant. Kohli had the option of using Australian Daniel Sams but he went ahead with Siraj and got the job done. In previous seasons, he would have gone for the overseas professional and not trust in the young Indian contingent.
Definite roles and set batting order
The other major issue for RCB over the years has been their tactics when it came to their batting line up. At times, they used to be too complicated rather than keeping it simple and hence kept jumbling with their order. This reshuffling of batting order may be easy to adjust for the greats of the game, but most players get confused with their roles within the team, thus failing to utilise their fullest potential.
They have managed to arrest that part of the game in IPL 2021. The big-ticket player that they bought in the auctions, Glenn Maxwell has been given a role at No 4 and it’s good to see that the team is sticking with it irrespective of when he has to come in to bat.
The role given to him is to up the ante during the middle phase of the innings and they have stuck to that right from the first match. Even though RCB lose a couple of wickets very early, they haven’t gone back to their old formula of rejigging the batting line up for Maxwell to come in only during that phase.
RCB’s plan to use AB de Villiers behind Maxwell has worked perfectly fine. He can strike the ball a long way from the first ball and hence his role too is defined in the team. Even though there is a long way to go in the tournament, RCB fans can see some light at the end of the tunnel.