IPL 2016 May 30, 2016

A record-breaking year, but no title for RCB

Led by the batting feats of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, Royal Challengers Bangalore overcame a poor start to the season and went all the way to the final, only for their bowling weaknesses to resurface
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Nannes: RCB will have to start looking at their bowling list

Where they finished

Runners-up for the third time

How they got there

When the season started, the Royal Challengers Bangalore line-up looked like a gym enthusiast who never showed up for legs day. Their top half was heavy and frightening, but they had almost nothing to show at the bottom. Samuel Badree and Mitchell Starc were part of the squad but injuries would soon rule both match-winners out of the entire tournament.

Having won only two of their first seven matches, they could not afford to lose more than one of their remaining seven. Their batsmen were firing, barring Chris Gayle, but whether they scored 185 or 191, they simply weren't able to defend, and were unable to settle on a bowling combination. It was like running on a treadmill - they weren't going anywhere.

From that point on, they banked on their home matches. Four of their last seven matches were at the batsman-friendly Chinnaswamy Stadium and their batsmen blazed away to such an extent that their bowlers were left with not much to do. Gayle regained form, while Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, arguably the two best batsmen in the world, reached unreal heights. Kohli hadn't scored a single T20 hundred before this season; now, one century was followed by another, and another, and a fourth one too. Kohli and de Villiers hammered Gujarat Lions, thrashed Kolkata Knight Riders by nine wickets, and Royal Challengers scored three 200-plus totals at home to march unstoppably into the Playoffs. Having been on the brink of being knocked out at one point, they sealed a final berth before anyone else.

Light bowling attack? Weakish middle order? Split webbing for the captain? No problem. By now Royal Challengers' bowling also fell into place. Chris Jordan was roped in, though perhaps later than he could have been, S Aravind was economical, Yuzvendra Chahal's legspinners and floaters were getting him wickets, and Shane Watson led the attack with his cutters and pace variations.

In the final, Royal Challengers ran into the most consistent team of the tournament, Sunrisers Hyderabad, and were trooping towards their target of 209 thanks to a big opening partnership between Gayle and Kohli, but quick wickets and big-stage nerves took over and they ran out of steam.

Highlight

In the 1990s, Old Trafford echoed with the chant "Giggs will tear you apart", celebrating a man who wore red and terrified oppositions. Replace Giggs with Kohli, and the Chinnaswamy could have done the same this IPL season. And he didn't tear oppositions apart all by himself. The bulk of Royal Challengers' weight-lifting was done by Kohli and de Villiers as their record-breaking stand of 219 against Lions underlined how two top batsmen with different styles could deflate any opposition. Together they scored 58% - 1660 runs (Kohli 973 and de Villiers 687) - of the 2863 that Royal Challengers scored off the bat. Kohli alone struck four centuries, a feat that surprised even himself, and stitched four century stands with de Villiers.

Disappointment

A team that had dismissed oppositions three times last season did so only once this time, while defending 248. They only restricted opponents to under 150 three times, towards the end of the tournament. They also struggled to settle on a bowling core they could rely on, with several changes made during the tournament, and all this amounted to an attack that was not all that threatening.

Key stats

  • Royal Challengers' run rate of 9.62 this season is the highest for any team in an IPL campaign. The previous best was also by them, 9.17, in 2015
  • Yuzvendra Chahal is the only spinner to feature among the top 10 wicket-takers this season. Chahal has been the top wicket-taker for Royal Challengers in successive seasons - 23 wickets in 2015 and 21 this time
  • KL Rahul became the first Royal Challengers wicketkeeper to score more than 300 runs in a season; he ended with a tally of 397

Best win

It was conjured when they needed one win after another. The record-breaking 144-run win against Gujarat Lions not only revived their season but also gave them confidence to go all the way to lift the trophy. Almost.

Worst defeat

Having kicked off their campaign with a total of 227 against Sunrisers, Royal Challengers looked to be headed for a second win when they posted a commanding 191 against Delhi Daredevils, but went on to lose as they came in the way of a Quinton de Kock hundred. That loss characterised the early part of the team's season, when their bowling seemed powerless to defend even imposing totals.

What they need most next season

Apart from a menacing bowling arsenal to complement their batting, Royal Challengers need a broad-chested middle order and pool of domestic talent. The final showed that their middle order was perhaps not fully equipped for a day when Kohli, Gayle and de Villiers would not see them through. For how long can Royal Challengers rely only on these match-winners? They could also rope in a couple more Indian bowlers to give them more flexibility given the limit on overseas players in the XI. And lastly but perhaps most importantly, they need a genuine wicketkeeper. KL Rahul is an excellent batsman, but he showed on a number of occasions through the season that the big gloves fit his hands uneasily.

Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arul on June 1, 2016, 9:36 GMT

    Mumbai (and Bangalore) is the best ground to score runs. Even 200+ totals are not safe. It was proved in IPL and T20 WC. Clearly no wonder how all Mumbai batsman score runs in domestic circuit!

  • Kiran on May 31, 2016, 19:35 GMT

    @ ANSHU.S - RCB already have Gayle and Watson to hide. One more might be a bit too much. Also, I think Sarfaraz is not yet a completely proven player. He has the talent but he hasn't played consistently enough to assume that he will perform under pressure and score big runs always. Most of his decent scores have come when batting first when the pressure is not much. His opportunity will come next year where he will surely be picked up by another team and play in the top 4 for 10+ games. RCB is not the team for him. KKR is also packed. RPS/SRH/DD are ideal for him. Same goes to Mandeep as well. Iyer missed out on a golden opportunity this year.

  • Harsh on May 31, 2016, 17:58 GMT

    At their peaking stage in the tournament in the 2nd half of the league stage few teams in the IPL have looked as invincible in past IPL's as the Royal Challengers who literally ressurected themselves from the grave mid-way to stage one of IPL cricket's greatest comebacks .After the half-way stage a total metamorphosis occurred in the side like a re-unified army batallion conquering every territory.I feel by the knockout stage they marginally lost form escaping from the jaws of defeat against Gujarat Lions.In the final their bowling let them down but after Chris Gayle blazed like fire they seemed to be cruising home However after Gayle was dismissed the other stars hardly rose to the occasion,totally loosing the impetus ,like a racing car crashing down.Few matches better illustrate the importance of handling big match pressure ,peaking at the right moment,how a flurry of a few wickets can totally reverse a game and the need of a great player to stick til the end .

  • Jo on May 31, 2016, 16:39 GMT

    So, if a team has attention to specific players, they are not a team of winning capabilities.

  • Jo on May 31, 2016, 16:38 GMT

    Remeber Football WC 2014. Many top national teams had one or two world's top 10 players/strickers/GKs. But Germany won, with a solitary goal. Their open statement for the reason to win was, "ARG had Messi, Brazil had Neymar, Portugal had Ronaldo, and so on, and we have a TEAM". Of those two important player teams, they made Portugal and Brazil bite the dust with 4-0 and 7-1 wins.

  •   Pravin Limaye on May 31, 2016, 13:16 GMT

    @DANI174... The Fizz will be retained by SRH. So, the base price thing is out of the question since he will not be available for other teams. SRH are not as shallow as- for example- RCB

    RCB are reckless at the Auctions. Ever since they got Gayle and AB with them, they have been that way. I think this is mostly because the 'Chinna'swamy is smaller than most school playgrounds, and the management think they have enough power in their batting to go for ordinary bowlers at the Auctions (they let go of Steyn and he later wreaked havoc in Intl cricket)

  • Hari on May 31, 2016, 11:00 GMT

    @BRYCE_CUNNINGHAM: SRH would have won all the matches in the league if they had Gayle, ABD and Kohli. Come on. don't give excuses and accept that SRH is a better team that won the trophy

  • Jayaesh on May 31, 2016, 10:35 GMT

    @PITCH_CURATOR : RCB and Kohli might not bat Sarfaraz in top 4 but right from his India and Mumbai u-19 days Sarfaraz has always batted in top 4 or 5 .Okay if Kohli feels Sarfaraz can play max 10-15 balls then those 10-15 balls are very crucial , i could recall on atleast four occasions where likes of Sachin Baby got to face those crucial 10-15 balls made only 18-20 and thus couldn't help RCB win, in a similar scenario Sarfaraz can/has whacked 30 runs out of 10 and won matches. So those 10-15 balls are quite pivotal. Sarfaraz is a decent fielder at slips,point -cover region but cannot field well in outfield because he is a slow mover . i don't recall Sachin Baby name being mentioned once in fielding doing anything worthwhile during this IPL thus reinforcing my point fielding especially near boundary area in grounds like Chinnaswamy is overrated. One thing i agree with you is that teams like GL,SRH,KKR will be going big time after Sarfaraz next IPL.

  • Kiran on May 31, 2016, 9:13 GMT

    @ anshu.s - You are missing my point. The players you mentioned are all either bowlers or top order batsmen. They will definitely get their chance to display their primary skill. Nehra, Ashiwn, Mishra, Zaheer etc for example will always get a chance to bowl 4 overs. Watson until the final was RCB's go to bowler at the death. Tiwary was a forced decision on Pune as they did not have enough players and he was played at the top for many matches. Sarfaraz is not mandatory for RCB as they already have a blockbuster top order batting line up and Mandeep/Sachin Baby who are handy lower order batsmen. There is no way Sarfaraz can play 30-40 balls as he cannot bat above 6 since Kohli, Gayle, ABD, Rahul and Watson in that order are better batsmen than him. In a team like DD or SRH Sarfaraz would have got a look in at # 4 - which is what I am suggesting. Equivalent players for Sarfaraz - Surya Yadav/R. Sathish, Dwivedi (GL), Gurkeerat, Hooda - All of them are gun fielders or can bowl.

  • Bryce on May 31, 2016, 7:04 GMT

    They would have been unstoppable if they had Starc

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