Top guns let Royal Challengers down
Where they finished
Eighth, with three wins, ten losses, and one washed out game.
In previous IPL seasons, RCB's bowling line-up did not have the depth, penetration or balance that other teams had. But their deficiencies with the ball were covered up by a strong batting core. And this year they had to do without Mitchell Starc, who opted out of the IPL.
Despite the M Chinnaswamy Stadium's short dimensions, and perhaps it was because the pitch had lost its batting-friendliness, RCB managed to take 37 wickets in six home matches, at an average of 23 and an economy just under eight per over. Two of their three victories - against Delhi Daredevils - came while defending relatively sub-par scores. Spinners Pawan Negi, who they bought this year, and Yuzvendra Chahal topped their wicket-takers list - with 16 and 14 wickets.
If that doesn't sound very good, it was because 2017 was that sort of season for RCB.
RCB were repeatedly let down by miserable batting performances. In 2016, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers had scored a combined 1660 runs in 32 innings, an average of 66.40 per game. They had been No. 1 and 3 on the run-scorers list. This year, their tally was 524 in 19 innings, an average of 29 per game.
They were both sidelined by injuries for the early part of the season, while Chris Gayle was also a no-show, with only 200 runs in nine innings at a strike-rate of 123.
With RCB's headliners failing to deliver, the rest of the batsmen had a terrific opportunity to influence games. None of them did. Kedar Jadhav was the best of the rest: 267 runs in 13 games at an average of 22.25 and strike rate of 143.
RCB was the only team to average less than 20 runs per wicket and score at less than 7.50 runs per over during the league stage. They were also the worst team in the Powerplay, averaging 41 runs in the first six overs. Every other team averaged more than 48.
After their batting failures in the first half of the season, a lack of confidence and belief started to show in RCB's shot selection. "You have to come out, show intent and back yourselves," Kohli had said after the game against Kolkata Knight Riders. Fear of failure, though, had handicapped them.
RCB had won two out of seven games when they travelled to Kolkata. After rain delayed the start at Eden Gardens, the RCB bowlers limited KKR to 131. With Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers to lead the small chase, RCB were set to get back on track.
However, they collapsed spectacularly for 49, the lowest IPL total and 10th lowest in all T20s. No Royal Challengers batsman reached double digits. Kohli watched aghast from the dug-out. "Our worst batting performance," Kohli said after the game. "It really hurts. Reckless batting, I can't say anything at the moment. It was that bad. This is just not acceptable."
The missing ingredient
Overseas batting depth. When de Villiers was injured and with Gayle misfiring, RCB didn't have batsmen to call on. Shane Watson had his "worst IPL" season too. Travis Head struggled, save his unbeaten 75 against Knight Riders. With their Indian contingent failing consistently, RCB had no chance.
Out of their control
A long list of injuries. KL Rahul didn't play a game. Kohli missed the first three matches. De Villiers didn't play four games, including the first two of the season. Tymal Mills, on whom RCB splurged INR 12 crores at the auction, played only five games.
Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo