Entering the 13th season of the IPL, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) was desperate to silence its critics by winning a maiden trophy. The team started well, winning five of its first seven matches. So much so that skipper Virat Kohli and his team-mates expressed hope that there was a strong positive vibe in the dressing room — something that had been missing in previous seasons.
That uplifting feeling turned sour, however, with a five-match losing streak to end the league stage, followed by a defeat at the hands of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Eliminator. Yet another season has passed with RCB failing to gain the big prize.
What went wrong
An overdependence on Virat Kohli and A. B. de Villiers cost the team dear. The lower middle-order — consisting of the likes of Shivam Dube and Chris Morris — was unable to step up when the star batsmen stuttered.
Australian opener Aaron Finch could not get going either, recording just one fifty in 12 matches. The experienced fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Umesh Yadav were shown up in the face of fire. With both speedsters going for more than 11 an over, the team management quickly lost faith in their abilities. Steyn played only three matches, while Umesh was picked for two games.
All-rounder Morris, signed for a whopping ₹10 crore, was laid low by injuries. The South African missed the first five matches due to a stomach muscle injury, while a quadricep injury forced him to skip the crucial Eliminator.
RCB unearthed two young match-winners in opening batsman Devdutt Padikkal and off-spinner Washington Sundar. Padikkal ensured stability at the start, notching up five fifties and finishing as the team’s highest run-scorer. The elegant Bengaluru lad has all the shots in the book and showed great temperament for someone playing his first full season. Sundar surprised all with his excellent control. Be it with the new or old ball, Sundar gave minimal scoring options to eager batsmen, keeping a flat, tight off-stump line. The 21-year-old may have picked up only eight wickets in the tournament, but his miserly economy rate of 5.96 made him a standout, match-winning bowler.
The squad selection posed some concerns which need to be urgently addressed. At 37, and on a comeback trail, Steyn is a pale shadow of his former mighty self. Umesh does not have the control to thrive in Twenty20 cricket — an issue that has haunted him in previous editions as well. The lower-order finishers, so crucial to the fate of a team, lacked that explosive power to close out matches.
Dube and Morris can have the odd big outing, but they are simply not fearsome enough to do consistent damage in the death. Retained English all-rounder Moeen Ali could have added balance to the playing XI, but he was picked for only three matches.
Without a well-balanced squad, RCB was stuck in a hole every time the stars failed.
The hero: Devdutt Padikkal
Matches: 15; runs: 473; highest score: 74; average: 31.53; strike rate: 124.8, fifties: 5