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Sunday, December 15, 2019

4 played, 4 defeats: What has gone wrong for Virat Kohli-led RCB in IPL 2019?

Virat Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore have failed in all departments so far this IPL season, sitting with zero points at the bottom of the table.

By: Sports Desk | Updated: April 5, 2019 4:23:49 pm
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) Captain Virat Kohli reacts during the Indian Premier League (IPL T20 2019) cricket match between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Rajasthan Royals( RR) at Sawai Man Singh stadium in Jaipur Virat Kohli-captained Royal Challengers Bangalore have made a dreadful start to IPL 2019. (Source: PTI)

After losing to Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli was still hopeful of his team’s chances in the IPL, even if fans weren’t.

“We have 10 games to go. If we start turning things around pretty soon, then we can get on a roll as well. We have to keep believing as a side. Just four games in, we would have liked one result our way if not two. The Mumbai game and this one, I thought we played well. We just didn’t grab onto our chances, we will like to improve our performance and take a bit of confidence that we were a bit more competitive than the last game,” he said.

Royal Challengers Bangalore have made a disastrous start to this season of the Indian Premier League. They have played four matches and lost all of them. They lost by seven wickets to Chennai Super Kings, by six runs to Mumbai Indians, by 118 runs to Sunrisers Hyderabad and by seven wickets to Rajasthan Royals. Apart from the Mumbai game, RCB never really seemed like they have had a chance.

Royal Challengers Bangalore are now the only team with zero points from the four games they’ve played so far, with even Rajasthan getting a valuable two points after defeating them. And the pressure is squarely on the team given they’ve not made the playoffs for two years running.

So what’s gone so wrong for them this season so far?

Batting collapses

RCB batsman AB de Villiers plays a shot during the Indian Premier League 2019 (IPL T20) cricket match between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Mumbai Indians (MI) at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru AB de Villiers scored an unbeaten 70 against Mumbai Indians. (Source: PTI)

The biggest problem RCB is facing right now is in the batting department. After four games, only Parthiv Patel and AB de Villiers have a batting average of over 20, with even Kohli’s average just below 20.

RCB collapsed for a paltry 70 in 17.1 overs in the opening game against CSK. The Bangalore top-order crumbled before Harbhajan Singh and Imran Tahir. AB de Villiers, Kohli and Hetmyer failed to make a difference with opener Parthiv Patel as the only player to enter double digits. The pitch did favour spinners, and even CSK captain MS Dhoni said the pitch’s behaviour was a surprise. However, a total of 70 is always low for a team that boasts of international batting stars in its lineup.

In Hyderabad, RCB were bundled out for 113 while chasing an almost-unachievable total of 232 thanks to blistering centuries by SRH’s Jonny Bairstow and David Warner. The visitors collapsed to an embarrassing 35 for 6 in 7.3 overs. Where Bairstow (114) and Warner (100 not out) shared a partnership of 214 runs, two of RCB’s star batsmen, Kohli and de Villiers, contributed a total of 4 runs between them.

Even against Rajasthan, if it weren’t for Parthiv Patel’s well-paced half-century, and Marcus Stoinis and Moeen Ali using the long handle to good effect at the death, the team might not have got to 158/4.

Over-dependence on stars?

The defeat against SRH would have been an especially bruising one for Virat Kohli who is hardly used to his team being so far off the mark when leading India. (Source: IPL website)

Is the team too reliant on its international stars to do the heavy lifting? It’s something former India captain Kris Srikkanth has pointed out in a column. The former Indian batsman has said that over the years, barring Kohli and De Villiers, others have not turned in performances that one expects at this level.

He said that opponents believe that if they get the two batsmen out, there’s little chance for RCB to recover from it.

After the loss to Rajasthan, Kohli also admitted the team had been struggling to find a balance.

“You have to think of the best possible combination going forward. We will definitely sit down and consider talking about what we can do. What can we do to get the balance right,” he said.

It’s a problem the team has been facing in the bowling department as well. Apart from Yuzvendra Chahal, all the bowlers have an economy rate higher than 7 per over and haven’t been among the wickets.

The inability to find ways of ‘winning moments’?

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) bowler Yuzvendra Chahal celebrates the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane during the Indian Premier League (IPL T20 2019) cricket match between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Rajasthan Royals( RR) at Sawai Man Singh stadium in Jaipur Bar Yuzvendra Chahal, none of the RCB bowlers have made a mark in first four matches. (Source: PTI)

While the Chennai loss may have rankled due to the low total, Kohli said that the loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad was probably the worst loss for the team ever.

“We were outplayed in all departments by a quality side,” he said. However, Kohli remained optimistic about the team’s chances in the league.

“We still have 11 games, and things can turn around quite quickly in this league. Against Rajasthan Royals, when things don’t go our way, we will have to find ways of winning moments. You need to start well,” he said.

In the game against Royals, the team did start well but a spell by Shreyas Gopal ensured the team never set a challenging total.  And any chances the RCB had against Rajasthan were throttled by some poor fielding.

In the second over during Royals’ chase, Kohli dropped Rahane at first slip off Navdeep Saini. Rahane went on to stitch a 60-run opening partnership with Jos Buttler before he was trapped leg-before by Chahal.

Then on the first ball of the 16th over, with the game still open, Umesh Yadav dropped Steve Smith off Chahal at deep cover. Royals still required 38 runs off 30 deliveries then and Smith was batting on 23. Smith’s 31-ball 38 anchored Royals’ chase after Buttler’s romp.

“Since the last two games, we have been dropping a lot of catches. In this format if you drop two, three catches that makes a big difference,” Ashish Nehra, the team’s bowling coach, said after the game.

In the last edition of the IPL, the team left it till the end to try and qualify for the playoffs, only to fall short. Ashish Nehra also admitted it could be a problem in this edition as well.

“The only problem for us is that we are running out of time as there are only 14 games,” he said.

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