Royal Challengers Bangalore 2013 review May 21, 2013

A case of peaking too early

Royal Challengers began the season in full steam, but failed to replicate their consistency away from home

Where they finished
Fifth. For the second consecutive season. Flattered to deceive yet again after reaching the final in 2011. They began the season as one of the form teams but struggled for consistency during the second half, when they played the bulk of their away games. It came down to a fight for the fourth slot for the playoffs, with Sunrisers Hyderabad. Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Chennai Super Kings in a must-win game and then had to expect Sunrisers to lose their final league game for a possible backdoor entry to the playoffs. It didn't happen and Royal Challengers, yet again, were left to reflect on a season in which they showed promise, but skidded when it came to the playoffs race.

What went right
The performance of the top order. With the trio of Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli, Royal Challengers posted in excess of 170 six times, including the record-breaking 263 for 5 against Pune Warriors. De Villiers enhanced his reputation for being one of the best finishers, sweeping, scooping and slogging seamers in the final overs. The captaincy had a positive effect on Kohli's batting, as he finished with 634 runs with six half-centuries, the top Indian-getter at the end of the league stages. Royal Challengers were also unbeaten at home, for all but one game. Vinay Kumar was the pick of the bowlers with 23 wickets.

What went wrong
In a team of specialists, the Royal Challengers bowlers failed to deliver consistently, unlike the batsmen. It was a familiar malaise from 2012, and despite beefing up their seam reserves at the February auction, the problem remained unsolved. It was their misfortune that their most experienced bowler, Zaheer Khan, was passed match fit only in the final stages. He picked up four wickets in his second and final game, but his return came too late.

Two glaring examples of their inability to defend large totals were the games against Kings XI Punjab. In Mohali, they were blown away by David Miller and at the Chinnaswamy, they failed to defend 175 and lost with nearly two overs to spare. The second defeat considerably hurt their chances of qualifying for the playoffs, and it meant expecting other teams to lose in order to ease their passage.

Royal Challengers weren't the best travelers, losing seven games. Their ability to win away from home was tested when they set out towards the end of April to play six away matches. They won only two of those, that too against the strugglers - Warriors and Delhi Daredevils. After a series of home wins, the question was whether the team could sustain that momentum on the road. They ran out of steam and couldn't claw back.

Best player
Chris Gayle, again. After topping the tournament run-charts in 2012 (733), he followed it up with 708 in this edition. He scored 175 of those in one game, against Warriors in Bangalore, the highest score in T20s, the fastest T20 century (30 balls) and hit the most sixes in an innings (17).

Poor performer
RP Singh was among the seven seamers recruited at the auction but despite his IPL record (third-highest wicket-taker with 87 wickets) he fell short of expectations. He didn't give Vinay the support needed, in the absence of Zaheer. He could be remembered for all the wrong reasons, though. With 16 to defend off the final over against Super Kings, it came down to two needed off the last ball. RP overstepped the crease and Super Kings miraculously sneaked home. That no-ball robbed Royal Challengers of two points and though they didn't realise the impact then, it was to bite them later in the tournament, when they were desperate for points.

Surprise package
Jaydev Unadkat was released by Kolkata Knight Riders last year and bought by Royal Challengers in this year's auction for US$525,000. The left-arm seamer picked up 13 wickets in as many games, including 5 for 25 against Daredevils. It was the only five-for by an Indian bowler in the tournament at the end of the league stages. Unadkat impressed on occasion with his control at the death overs and commentators noted that he had increased his pace.

Recommended for retention
Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli, Vinay Kumar

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo