When Virat Kohli, Faf du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell combine for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), memories hark back to the times when the trio of Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers would send fans into raptures.
But camouflaged by the resounding success of the two batting trios is the fact that RCB, both then and now, has failed to evolve into a champion outfit. Sunday’s defeat at home to Gujarat Titans just stretched the side’s wait for the elusive Indian Premier League (IPL) title into the 16th year.
This season, Kohli, du Plessis and Maxwell did all the heavy lifting, scoring nearly three-fourths of their side’s runs. The middle-order was non-existent, with the likes of Mahipal Lomror (135 runs from 10 innings), Dinesh Karthik (140 from 13) and Anuj Rawat (91 from seven) failing miserably.
The injury-forced absence of Rajat Patidar – who scored 333 runs at an average of 55.5 and strike-rate of 152.75 in 2022 – was unfortunate, but it would be a stretch to conclude that all of the side’s batting ills could have been cured by just one man’s presence.
While there was some consternation about the pace at which Kohli made his runs – something he corrected in the final two matches, scoring centuries off 63 and 60 balls, respectively – head coach Sanjay Bangar felt meagre returns from the middle-order could have influenced how the top-order played.
“That may have had an effect,” Bangar said. “Maybe if our lower order was going strong and converting whatever fewer balls they had, we would have gotten 10-15 runs extra or maybe the top order would have played more fearlessly.
“Our batting in the PowerPlay and middle-overs were excellent but our contributions in the last five overs in most games did hurt us a bit.”
The bowling seemed to have the right personnel, but never morphed into a well-rounded unit. Mohammed Siraj was excellent but injuries meant Josh Hazlewood played all of three matches and Reece Topley one.
Harshal Patel was totally off the boil (14 wkts at 32.43; econ: 9.66) and Wanindu Hasaranga a shadow of the bowler who excelled in the middle-overs last year.
What will also worry the RCB faithful is the fact that skipper du Plessis is 38, Karthik 37 and Kohli 34. A change of guard is imminent. The rebuild better start sooner rather than later.
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