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A review of RCB in IPL 2019

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Royal_Challengers_Bangalore_RCB_Virat_Kohli_performance_IPL_2019_CricketThis IPL was a season of two halves for Royal Challengers Bangalore. In the first half, they managed to lose six games on the trot, made strategic errors in game after game, fluffed key moments and failed to get together as a unit. In the second half of the tournament, the Virat Kohli-led team showed what they are capable of by winning four of their last seven games, with one match getting washed out.

Though they took the wooden spoon, they ended just a point short of the fourth-placed side Sunrisers Hyderabad. Yet they never really challenged for a place in the top 4, and were playing catch-up right till the end.

But what a turnaround it was. Right from the time Kohli stated that his team should ‘enjoy’ their cricket, RCB unit emerged more likely to put up a fight after their dismal start. Just when they were getting their act together, a crucial game against Rajasthan Royals at home was washed out, which effectively put them out of contention for a spot in the play-offs.

The positives for RCB in 2019

Kohli and AB de Villiers once again led the way with the bat and ended as the top two run-getters, while Yuzvendra Chahal was unsurprisingly their leading wicket-taker for them.

The top-order contributions were a massive positive for the team, with Parthiv Patel, Moeen Ali and Marcus Stoinis - who was the signing of the season for them - also coming good. The Australian, who was traded in from Kings XI Punjab, beefed up the middle order and he found an able ally in Ali, who played a few handy cameos in crunch situations. Though Stoinis played only 10 games for RCB this season, he made an impact, scoring 211 runs at an average of 52.75 and a strike-rate of 135.26. He picked up only a couple of wickets, but kept things tight.

The maturity that Gurkeerat Singh Mann displayed along with Shimron Hetmyer in the last league game against SRH showed that, on the batting front, RCB’s woes are limited. Hetmyer, initially dropped after a series of poor scores, took Stoinis’ place after the latter left for international duty. He constructed a well-made 50 after RCB lost three of their wickets early in the chase and found themselves in the ditch against SRH. He gave evidence of the skills that fetched him 4.2 Crore INR at the auctions, and the team will look to build on his potential as they look to the next season.

Things that let them down

A few uncontrollable decisions by the umpires, some monstrous knocks by rival players coupled with lack of planning and below-par execution of what plans they had all led to RCB’s downfall this season. Starting with twin hundreds by David Warner and Jonny Bairstow at Hyderabad - the game that proved critical as SRH walked into the top-four despite a loss in the last game due to the massive Net Run Rate boost they had received during this match - to a 13-ball 48 by Andre Russell when the tide was in RCB’s favour at home. The side suffered due to a below-par bowling attack that consistently failed to control big-hitters.

They were also at the receiving end of a few contentious no-ball calls against Mumbai Indians and SRH, both at the Chinnaswamy.

Panic-driven changes in the staring XI; the under-usage of Shivam Dube; several dubious changes in the batting order and bowling changes; along with terrible fielding and the inability of the pacers to create any impact, especially at the death, all contributed to an unflattering season for the franchise.

The lack of quality death bowlers cannot be emphasized enough. On paper, RCB have a fair mix of international and domestic, experienced and young bowlers. But the attack was one-dimensional, with Tim Southee, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini and Mohammad Siraj all capable of giving away runs aplenty on their bad days. Dale Steyn was flown in for Nathan Coulter-Nile, but flew back almost immediately due to an injury after just two games.

Though Saini impressed, he too faltered and was expensive on occasion. The RCB seamers conceded runs at a rate of 11.23 in the last four overs, only better than KKR’s 11.25 and Rajasthan Royals’ 11.34. Apart from Chahal, the remaining bowlers could only pick up 3.5 wickets per game in 13 matches. Once again it was their bowling that led to RCB’s downfall.

What next?

Gary Kirsten - a coach who has not enjoyed much success in the IPL - emphasized the need for ‘structural changes’ in the RCB unit. While they would definitely want to improve their bowling next year, the management should also focus on giving players an extended run during a season. Players like Mann, Dube and Akshdeep Nath were always in and out of the team, and need some assurance that they will get a prolonged shot at their roles in the long run.

They were also the worst fielding side and made many tactical blunders throughout - things that the unit would do well to improve upon before IPL 2020.



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