Righting the wrongs: Can RCB win IPL 2021?

Can RCB finally win IPL 2021 after over a decade of failure by Virat Kohli and his team?

Royal Challengers Bangalore’s IPL chances

Can RCB win IPL 2021, after over a decade’s worth of under performance?

Last season they made it to the play-offs for the first time since 2016. Despite losing to SRH in the eliminator, it was a step in the right direction for them. Mike Hesson and Simon Katich were appointed as Director of Cricket and Head Coach respectively and in their first season, they showed improvement in results and performances. Whether or not the improvement is enough that it can help RCB win this year’s edition of the IPL in 2021, is yet to be seen.

Coming into this season, having let go of players like Chris Morris, Aaron Finch, Moeen Ali, they spent big bucks on the likes of Kyle Jamieson, Glenn Maxwell and Dan Christian amongst others.

So, how did their opening game go and what key points can infer from this?

In their first game against the Mumbai Indians, Kyle Jamieson and Mohammad Siraj were given the responsibility with the new ball and both did their roles as expected. They extracted some lateral movement off the surface which ensured MI did not get off to a flier in the powerplay.

Both came close to dismissing Chris Lynn, who was finding it tough initially with the tacky nature of the surface and just could not middle the ball enough. 

Middle-overs muddle

However, Yuzvendra Chahal, who has been an ever-reliable cog for RCB for a number of years now, did not have the greatest of games as Rohit Sharma, first, and then Chris Lynn took a liking to him. He never really recovered from the initial onslaught.

HYDERABAD, INDIA – MAY 12: Rohit Sharma of the Mumbai Indians bats during the Indian Premier League Final match between the the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium on May 12, 2019 in Hyderabad, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Dan Christian, Shahbaz Ahmed, Harshal Patel were all given one-over spells post the powerplay but Suryakumar Yadav and Lynn took them down, and at 86-1 halfway through, MI looked well-placed for a score in the range of 180. Washington Sundar’s late introduction was slightly questionable but he took the wicket of Lynn in the 13th over and that’s where MI began to falter.

 

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Death overs – Tactically spot on

Harshal Patel, who was traded in from the Delhi Capitals, played ahead of Indian pacer Navdeep Saini and was given the responsibility of bowling the death overs. Coming up against arguably the best middle order in the competition featuring the likes of Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Patel’s ability to rely on his slower ball variations worked to a tee.

He ended up with figures of 5-27 and ensured that MI, who were looking on course for a score of 180+, ended up with 159. The fact that RCB backed someone like Patel over Saini on that Chepauk track deserves some praise and the execution of plans worked very well. 

Chasing a par score on that track, RCB needed a positive start and the move to send Washington Sundar to open alongside Virat Kohli, while commendable, did not pay dividends. Rajat Patidar, the debutant was looking good before perishing to Trent Boult leaving RCB at 46-2 at the end of the powerplay. Then, entered Glenn Maxwell at number 4, who had a horrendous season with KXIP last year scoring just 108 runs without a solitary six in 13 outings. 

People at the time of the auction bid had asked, can RCB win IPL 2021, with a misfiring Maxwell?

 

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Batting intent

RCB had a massive issue in the middle overs last season, with someone like Virat Kohli having just a strike rate of 108 in the overs 7-16. Ab de Villiers, had a strike rate of 130 in the same period but was dismissed 6 times during this period and that meant many a time, he could not be there during overs 16-20 where his strike rate is 218 – better than anyone during that period.

The period between 7-16 is where spinners generally operate and since the 2018 IPL, de Villiers has a strike of just over 100 against left-arm spin and has been dismissed 8 times against leg-spin during that time. RCB, in short, needed a guy who was comfortable taking down spin and pace during this middle phase and not allowing Kohli or de Villiers to feel the pressure, and potentially, Maxwell is the guy as he showed in the first game.

He took down Krunal Pandya and Rahul Chahar – playing the orthodox and reverse sweeps and put them off completely. Maxwell acting as the foil between Kohli and de Villiers worked perfectly in the game and that should continue.

And towards the end, despite the wickets of Kohli, Maxwell, and soon, Christian, AB just did AB things. Having not played any form of cricket since the last IPL, he coolly took down Trent Boult and the best T20 fast bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, as though it was a piece of cake. and took RCB home through his sheer mind-boggling brilliance.

This showed why the phase of the game which he walked in was perfect and him walking in too early, while it sounds great to have him face the maximum number of deliveries, it does not get the best out of him and for RCB to go a long way in the tournament, they need to persist with this. Can RCB win IPL 2021 is a difficult question but the signs and tactics are good so far.

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