Every year before the Indian Premier League begins, Royal Challengers Bangalore are rated as one of the favourites to win the tournament and every year after the competition ends, RCB end up being the subject countless memes from the internet community.
With history as a witness, RCB have always begun the tournament with a superb batting lineup. AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli, on their days, are good enough to destroy opposition bowling attacks.
On top of that duo, however, RCB have had the likes of Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, KL Rahul and many more world-class batsman in their ranks. Even then, however, their record under the tutelage of Virat Kohi has been abysmal, to say the least.
The Bengaluru side have been led by Kohli since 2013. In 6 seasons, RCB have reached the playoffs twice and made it to the final only once from there. In the last three seasons, they have finished at the bottom of the table twice – which is just a testament to how poor they have been in the IPL.
So, the question is: what is the problem with the Bengaluru side?
There have been many quarters of the fan base that accuse the bowling attack of RCB as the main culprit of their failures and to some extent, this might be true. While RCB have always filled their batting with entertaining superstars, their bowling attacked has lacked substantial names.
But that’s only a part of the problem. The bigger picture here is how Kohli has handled his players in the IPL.
Let’s take an example from last season. Kohli used various opening combinations with the bat – which is a sign of a captain who is not sure about his strongest XI even when half the tournament is over.
This has not been a one-off case since with Kohli as the captain, no other player has been guaranteed a place in the playing XI apart from himself and AB de Villiers.
The constant chopping and changing of the XI, the apparent changes in the batting order, shuffling the bowlers… these are signs of a captain that has little faith in his players.
It is the sign of a captain who doesn’t know what to do and even if he does, he lacks the conviction to go through with it for their entirety of the season.
There is a lesson to be learnt here and Kohli should have to look no further than Chennai Super Kings. Last season, Shane Watson had a torrid start to the campaign as he couldn’t do anything significant for the first 10 innings of the tournament.
Even then, Dhoni and Fleming opted to keep him in the team and in the end, he repaid the faith with a 96 from 53 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad. He smashed 80 from 59 balls in the final against Mumbai and came very close to winning the title for his side for the second year in a row.
This is the same Shane Watson who was an RCB player in 2017 but couldn’t flourish under the captaincy of Virat Kohli – and how could he? He started the tournament batting at number five, before becoming an opener and then being dropped out of the team, only to return to bat at number four.
In fact, Watson even played at number 6 while being in and out of the team for the entirety of the season. To think that he began the season as the stand-in captain in the absence of Virat Kohli gives a better insight at the type of team that RCB are.
From the management to Virat Kohli himself, there is a clear lack of transparent thought-process. No matter how good a team RCB are able to make in the auctions, they won’t succeed if they don’t have a proper plan in place and the strength to stick to it even if it is seemingly not working in the initial stages.
RCB went into the final of the IPL 2016 but it was more due to the sheer brilliance of Virat Kohli, who scored close to a thousand runs in that campaign alone, than anything else.
But depending on a single player’s ability with the bat is not enough to win a tournament like the IPL since one average match from that said player could ruin everything – which is what happened in the final of the IPL 2016 as Virat Kohli’s 54 runs from 35 balls were still not enough to help RCB chase down Sunrisers Hyderabad’s mammoth target of 209.
The examples of Shane Watson and IPL 2016 campaign, respectively, are just a microcosm of RCB’s problems. Even though Virat Kohli is the best possible batsman a T20 team could have, his lack of clarity in decision-making has cost them time and again.
And that needs to change soon or it won’t be long before RCB makes the change themselves.