At the halfway point of their league campaign,Royal Challengers Bangalore had reached what seemed like an unprecedented high-point in the IPL. They were on top of the table,and had gotten there with a win of such magnitude a margin of 135 runs,over Pune Warriors that their net run rate (1.254) was nearly twice as good as that of the second-best team on the table (Chennai Super Kings,0.648).
The only way they could go,as the cliché goes,was down. No one,however,could have predicted how far they would spiral. Seven matches later,after five defeats and two wins against the bottom two teams,they now play their final league match,needing a win to ensure qualification. Their opponents,Chennai Super Kings,might have already booked themselves a place in the playoffs,but that won’t cause them to slack off in any way. Chennai will have to win in order to try and finish at the top of the table.
How has it come to this for Bangalore? The one reason that hits you in the face,if you’ve watched them play recently,is the quality,or lack thereof,of their bowling. With the bat,Bangalore rely heavily on three players Chris Gayle,Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to get them runs. Over their last seven matches,their bowlers have put an inordinate amount of pressure on these three.
In those matches,they have conceded 170 or more six times five of those came while bowling second.
The only match where Bangalore’s bowlers kept their opponents to under 170 was against Kolkata Knight Riders at Ranchi. There,Bangalore had batted first and posted 115. Even so,Kolkata didn’t canter home,losing five wickets and only getting to their target in the final over.
In that match,four of Bangalore’s five bowlers conceded less than seven runs an over. Promptly,Bangalore left out the two most economical of them Ravi Rampaul and Murali Kartik,who had identical figures of 1/17 from their four overs – when they played their next match,against Punjab at home. Rampaul (6.75) and Kartik (7.28) had also been their most economical bowlers over the entire season. It was little wonder then that Punjab handed Bangalore a genuine mauling. Chasing 175,they got to their target with 11 balls left.
Moises Henriques,who took the new ball in place of Rampaul,went for 29 in 2.1 overs; Muttiah Muralitharan,brought in to replace Kartik,conceded 44 in four overs. It was ironical that Bangalore’s attempt at fixing the unbroken collapsed so spectacularly,since they had barely made any attempt,over those seven matches,to fix the broken bits of their malfunctioning attack.
At the start of the season,many wondered how Bangalore would use the one resource they had too much of – their squad contained as many as 10 Indian fast bowlers.
As the season has unfolded,though,they have mostly stuck to the same faces. Vinay Kumar has played all 15 of their matches,Jaidev Unadkat has featured 12 times,and RP Singh on 10 occasions. Vinay and RP have economy rates of more than eight an over,while Unadkat has gone at 7.53.
Of the other Indian pacers in their roster,Zaheer Khan and Abhimanyu Mithun have played one match each. Sreenath Aravind,Pankaj Singh,Prasanth Parameswaran,Sandeep Warrier and Harshal Patel haven’t featured even once.
In a season that has seen other teams show faith in uncapped Indian seamers such as Mohit Sharma,Siddharth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma,Bangalore could have given any of those bowlers a go,particularly when their tried and tested names have barely made any impact.