Bangalore v Punjab, IPL 2013, Bangalore May 14, 2013

Bowling a let-down for RCB yet again

The expectations are heaped on Royal Challengers' batsmen. But it's the bowlers who have consistently let the team down

After his bowlers failed to defend 175 with almost two overs remaining, the first thing Virat Kohli was asked at the post-match presentation was whether he and Chris Gayle could have approached their partnership differently. This after Royal Challengers Bangalore added 116 in the last nine overs. It said everything about the make-up of a side that relies heavily on three outstanding batsmen and expects its revolving door of bowlers to throw up four or five who will keep the opposition just in check, somehow.

Admittedly, it was a rather slow build-up from Royal Challengers, at 58 for 1 after 11 overs. But in most cases, any side that goes on to score at over two runs a ball for nearly half its innings can be forgiven for that go-slow. Unless, they have taken it too easy on an absolute belter, which the Chinnaswamy pitch wasn't at all in the first innings. Yes, Royal Challengers did not have the best of starts but even in hindsight, it is difficult to blame Gayle and Kohli for the loss to Kings XI Punjab.

The pitch changed character as the match progressed. It started as a slow, low surface on which some good length deliveries from the Kings XI quick bowlers went around shin height. It would not have been out of place in a Test match at the Kotla. Adam Gilchrist, the Kings XI captain, said at the presentation he'd started to wonder if he'd made the correct decision to bowl, given the way the pitch behaved at the start. Gilchrist expected it would get slower and lower, and began to have second thoughts about batting second, but eventually found out it came on a lot better under lights.

When the game began, Gayle just could not find any timing at all. He swung at and missed length balls a couple of times, something that does not happen often to him. He tried getting under a few to launch them over long-on but they just wouldn't come on. He was struggling to connect even with the nudge to square leg, a tactic he uses all the time to rotate strike at the start, when he is sizing up things.

Where Royal Challengers do miss out, during the few overs Gayle takes to build, is by having someone like Cheteshwar Pujara at the other end. Pujara himself likes some time to get going. Having a Tillakaratne Dilshan - when in form - or an aggressive batsman to partner Gayle does not allow the innings to stall from both ends at the beginning.

Coming back to Gayle's knock, despite being on 22 off 30 at one stage, he found enough rhythm towards the end to finish with 77 off 53, a strike-rate of 145-plus. Kohli was able to accelerate smoothly as well. As Kohli said at the presentation, if you'd put up 174 on that pitch batting first, you'd done well.

When Kings XI came out, it was a different surface. Gilchrist managed mostly mishits for the major part of his innings, but they cleared the infield. They probably wouldn't have if he was batting first. Azhar Mahmood could not pick a Muttiah Muralitharan doosra but was still able to power it flat over long-on. It would have been tough to clear the fielder if Mahmood was batting first.

If the pitch had changed, so had the attack - an attack that few defending captains will feel safe with. Kohli said at the start of the season that Royal Challengers knew there was a weakness in the attack and had gone on a fast-bowler buying spree. Still, you get that old feeling of sameness with the Royal Challengers attack. And the foreboding sense that somehow, a bowler or two will have an off day and will leak runs throughout.

They bowl short when they don't have the pace to hurry batsmen. They bowl length from which they disappear for sixes. They don't hit the blockhole often, though that is something all bowling sides in the IPL are guilty of. Further, Kohli had chosen the insurance of an extra batsman in Arun Karthik at the expense of a fast bowler. So when two of his bowlers went for runs, he had no back-up.

The expectations though, as the question at the presentation showed, were heaped on the Royal Challengers batsmen. Could they have gone harder earlier? Could they have targeted, say 200? With an attack that conceded 176 for 3 in 18.1 overs, it probably wouldn't have mattered even then.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 16, 2013, 1:19 GMT

    To drop Rampaul and Murali Kartik is like dropping Gayle and AB.I hope they don't make the same mistake again.

  • Pratyush on May 15, 2013, 15:28 GMT

    RCB cannot defend 200 with this attack against any decent batting. The problem is with the bowling. Murli is not what he used to be, Zak coming out of injury, Mithun bowls 2 hit me balls every over and Vinay in known to lose it. Add to this a batting pitch a small ground and decent hitters. Why isn't AB keeping? A lot of the guys have singled out Pujara for a slow start. I feel, he is like the calming guy at the top. No issues with him. Why have we dropped Tiwary? Drop Murali, play Mcdonald. And hope like hell that CSK dont play well.

  • Binish on May 15, 2013, 13:22 GMT

    The problem with RCB is that their top 5 cant bowl n their bottom 5 dont knw to hold a bat. Number 6 is a musical chair, with a new name occupyin d space every other match. So if two or three players in either department fail, the pressure on the rest of the players quadruples. Its more relevant in the bowlin department as every bowler is expected to complete his quota. Add the size of Chinnaswamy stadium and a batting pitch to the equation, its a death bed for bowlers...

  • Aneep on May 15, 2013, 11:15 GMT

    RCB have it all to blame themselves for the predicament they find themselves in!! Pujara is no opener, Murli was a bad choice and zaheer khan was at best a question mark !! Moses henriques is wasted where is he batting, why not make him open and give it a go, Rampaul should have been persisted with. For the next match, all crucial . I would go with: Gayle, Henriques, Kohli, De Villiers, Rahul ,Kartik (wk), Rampaul, Kartik(bowler) Vinay Kumar, Unadkat, Harshal Patel ..

  • Dummy4 on May 15, 2013, 10:39 GMT

    Poor umpiring affected KXIP too. Gayle was out on 4. So one wrong umpiring decision neutralized another!!!

  • Dummy4 on May 15, 2013, 10:35 GMT

    @Dalena I really wonder if you know the game at all.Your trying to portray a Bechara Kholi image.Oh poor captain he did everything right and lost to bad bowling.Oh come on man picking a pacer in a spin friendly condition in match against KKR dropping your most economical bowlers ( Ravi n Murali Karthik) are all big time blunders and obviously its the captain/coach who is to be blamed for it.With regard to umpires being fired if Gilly was out in 20's and not given out dont forget Gayle was also plumb in front when he was on 4 or something which was not given had gayle got out at that RCB would have been in shatters dont give one sided justifications sounds so dumb.With regard to kholi captaining India I wish the day never comes as with his attitude he will be a prime cause for the team to goto tatters

  • Rajesh on May 15, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    An intriguing team with intriguing team selection most of the time. From nowhere Mithun (never economical) comes in and plays an important match, leaks runs and costs the match. All of a sudden AB is not keeping wicjets, Arun Kartik comes in and Tiwary goes out, Rahul comes in and plays down the order! Pujara continues to contribute to the slow starts. Agreed, Bowlers did not bowl well. But, the batting order is not proper as well.

  • Servin on May 15, 2013, 9:42 GMT

    Good going RCB... Pujara, Saurabh Thiwary, and you just need to add to your line up a couple of more test players or useless players to make it a complete useless team...

  • Nishchal on May 15, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    The t20 cricket is getting into more of a one day temperment,where batsmen take a deffensive stance during the intial overs and finally cut loose towards the slog overs.This is exactly what gayle and kohli did.Pitch conditions is just a mental block,if the batsmen are able to overcome that any pitch can get good runs for them.Gayle and kohli should stick to their natural way of playing and deliver.

  • RAJARAMAN on May 15, 2013, 8:52 GMT

    It is lame to say that Azhar Mahmood would have failed to clear the fence off Muralidharan had he been batting first ... that shot had sheer power to carry it over the ropes, no matter what the nature of pitch was ... give some credit to KXIP batsmen too ... though the ineffective bowling was the cause of bright batting by KXIP

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