The eight edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is on. Probably the richest cricket tournaments in the world, this T20 tournament has 8 franchisees vying for the prestigious cup. The Chennai Super Kings and the Kolkata Knight Riders have both won this twice in past years. It has been galling for faithful fans of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) the team that I support, as I live in Bengaluru, that we have never won the trophy even once, despite the rich talent we had. We have been losing finalists twice.
A team boasting the likes of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers should have the strongest batting line up and be able to chase down any total. This hasn’t been the case as we take stock today with RCB having played 7 out of the 14 matches which will decide as to who will make it to the last four for the quarter finals and beyond.
In the first match, we got off to a great start beating last year’s winners Kolkata Knight Riders in their home ground, the famous Eden Gardens. Our win came thanks mainly to Chris Gayle who scored 96 off 56 balls and fell just 4 runs short of what would have been a masterly century. Though we scored 179 to win, it was clear that our bowling wasn’t up to scratch. Mitchell Starc was still resting hurt after he was the Player of the Tournament in the recently concluded World Cup and we missed him badly. The young leggie Chahal showed a lot of promise with 1/28 off his 4 overs. Our fielding too looked a bit rusty for a team beginning a tough campaign.
Our bowling was weak again in the second match and the first at our home ground the Chinnaswamy Stadium. The Sunrisers Hyderabad beat us by 8 wickets having got us out for 166, a below par score on this ground. Once again Aaron, Abbott and Patel gave away too many runs too easily. If it had not been for de Villiers we may have scored even less when we batted.
As always on winning the toss, Kohli asked Mumbai Indians to bat first in our third match, once again at home. Mumbai scored over 200 thanks to Rohit Sharma’s batting and again some average bowling by Aaron, Nachim & Co. David Wiese had an impressive debut and though Chahal bowled well, we gave away too many runs. Chasing over 200 would always be hard but it got worse when Gayle didn’t live up to expectations once again. Harbhajan took 4 wickets as we were bowled us out for 191. It was close but not a win nevertheless.
Things became worse in the next match when we lost to Chennai Super Kings once again to the disappointment of the large home crowd. CSK scored 181 invited to bat first and Mitchell Starc playing his first game showed what a difference he made to our bowling attack though he got just 1/24. Our batsmen couldn’t score more than 154 to lose by 27 runs. For the first time, Gayle didn’t play but our batsmen were undone by some excellent bowling by Ashish Nehra who got 4/10 in his four overs. We now had three defeats in a row.
The bowling unit helped RCB win Match 5 at Ahmedabad getting the strong Rajasthan Royals team out for only 130, thanks to Starc, Patel, Abdulla and Chahal. In reply Gayle showed glimpses of what he could do and then Kohli and de Villers batted so well that we won by 9 wickets with four overs to spare.
The tide turned further in our sixth match where we beat Delhi Daredevils at their home ground in Delhi very convincingly. Getting them out for 95 was a huge boost to our bowlers, with Starc taking 3 wickets again and Aaron bowling excellently to take 2/24. Our openers Gayle and Kohli scored the required runs to win by 10 wickets.
With this there was a lot of expectation when Rajasthan Royals played against us at the Chinnasway. Despite losing Gayle and Kohli for just 13, we scored 200 once again depending on our best batsman, de Villiers and a gem of an innings by the promising 17 year old Sarfaraz Khan. It was tragic that it began to rain after our innings and the match was called off without RR going in to bat at all. Both taems got 1 point each.
At this stage, therefore, we have 7 points from 7 matches with 3 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw. We are at the third position.
My thoughts at this stage of the tournament:-
- We seem to have got a good combination based on the last match.
- It pays to have Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers at the top 3.
- Our bowling is much better with Starc spearheading the attack.
- Dinesh Karthik must do much more as a batsman. He has run out two of our best players.
- de Villiers is key to our batting.
- Our fielding and catching need to improve if we are to convert half chances to wickets as some of the top teams do.
With seven games to go, we are still in with a chance. Let’s hope RCB does better in the second half of the tournament and goes on to win the championship!