Royal Challengers Bangalore – The Juggernaut in Jeopardy

The Royal Challengers Bangalore have been the most dominating side this IPL. Virat Kohli has been good in his captaincy, fielding, and batting, whereas Chris Gayle has taken the opposition apart, and their fast bowling attack – comprised of Vinay Kumar, RP Singh and Ravi Rampaul – has been pretty consistent. As I have said before, RCB definitely did their homework in the auctions. They brought in 4 fast bowlers (3 of them being Indian), and 3 all rounders, which had been what they were missing last year. Out of them, Ravi Rampaul has been the most successful. You see, what RCB lacked through this time, was that dominant fast bowler, who you can trust to take wickets and trouble the batsmen with the new ball. Deccan had Dale Steyn, Mumbai has Lasith Malinga, and Delhi has Morne Morkel. RCB had Zaheer Khan, but he wasn’t the threatening bowler that RCB needed. Although he was decently economic, batsmen didn’t have too much trouble facing him. Rampaul has done well here. He nips the new ball around and asks questions to the batsmen. He also takes wickets early, and gives RCB that early edge. Their other bowlers have also been dominant, particularly Vinay Kumar, who has put the slower deliveries and short balls to good use, in addition to his toe crushing yorker. After being replenished of his duty as a second spearhead, Vinay seems be in good wicket-taking form, as he now shares a joint 3rd place on the Purple Cap standings with Amit Mishra (but has a worse econimy rate). RP Singh has done reasonably well with the new ball, but has been expensive in the death, as shown in various encounters. However, he has taken wickets, and is now 8th on the standings.

Now onto RCB’s batting. Gaylestorm. Not much else to say here. Chris Gayle has utterly dominated the bowlers, as he has struck 450 runs already, with a strike rate of 164.23 and an average of 90. His dominance has given RCB that slight psychological edge over the fielding side, no matter what total. His 175 not out against Pune will not be forgotten very soon, and is just as far from being beaten. Gayle has been assisted very ably by Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, who have also enjoyed good form for most of RCB’s games.

Their problems are very simple. They don’t have a balance in their side. Their lack of dominant Indian batsmen has forced them to pull in 3 overseas batsmen, leaving their middle order very vulnerable indeed. Also, to accommodate all their bowlers, they are forced to play the 5-1-5 distribution, with 5 bats, a keeper, and another 5 bowlers. Of course some of their bowlers can bat, as Vinay Kumar and Ravi Rampaul demonstrated last game. However, their balance still isn’t good. Out of their 5 bowlers, if even one goes for runs, RCB will have problems. Either Gayle or Kohli will have to bowl. Neither of these are particularly good options. Another concern they will have is the scratchy form of Tillakaratne Dilshan. The 195-run chase at Mumbai was very doable, with Chris Gayle on one end. The only thing would be to play out the swinging new ball, and take on the bowlers in the middle overs. Here, Dilshan was trying to hit every ball sent his way by Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga, and hit like 2 of them. His shot selection was rash, and he failed to make contact with much. So excruciating was his innings, that it was relief to see him perish to the more inexperienced Dhawal Kulkarni. This match also revealed a chink in RCB’s armor as neither Saurabh Tiwari nor Arun Karthik – who made up RCB’s middle order – put up many runs. It was Rampaul and Vinay who stitched together a 50 run stand in 36 balls to help RCB avoid the potential humiliation of losing by a hundred runs. Their rotation of the strike was an example of what RCB should have done in the initial overs.

Here’s what RCB should do for their game against RR. They must bench Dilshan, and bring in Sunny Sohal, the opener. Then, they must bring in Moises Henriques ahead of one of their bowlers, maybe RP Singh. Another interesting move they could employ against RR would be to bring Pankaj Singh. He would know the Rajasthan track well, having played for them last year. Playing him against Mumbai would have also been successful, as the Mumbai track had a lot of bounce in it, and Pankaj can bring out a deadly bouncer.