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Indian Premier League 2011

Bangalore back on track after sluggish start

The new-look Royal Challengers Bangalore outfit has so far endured a season of two halves

Nitin Sundar

May 5, 2011

Comments: 12 | Text size: A | A

Zaheer Khan roars after dismissing Yuvraj Singh, Royal Challengers Bangalore v Pune Warriors, IPL 2011, Bangalore, April 29, 2011
Zaheer Khan has stepped up gradually after an indifferent start to the IPL, possibly due to mental fatigue © Associated Press
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If it ain't broke, don't fix it, goes the idiom. Given their success in past seasons, and the presence of high-profile local stars in their ranks, Royal Challengers Bangalore's 'build from scratch' approach to the 2011 IPL auction came as a surprise. They retained Virat Kohli, but let all their other stars go. Four games into their campaign, that move seemed to have backfired spectacularly, as they slumped to three successive losses after a hard-fought win in the opening game. Yet, thanks to the resilience in their ranks, they have managed to turn their season so far into a tale of two halves. Their resurgence, built on the back of three successive wins, has been just as comprehensive as the shambles that preceded it.

Coach Ray Jennings has maintained his equanimity through the highs and lows, and says the sweeping changes to the combination made the sluggish beginning almost inevitable. "Starting off with just one retained player, it took a while to find the right combination," Jennings told ESPNcricinfo. "That was one of the reasons for the slow start. Zaheer Khan coming out of World Cup, being mentally fatigued and not bowling as well as he could initially, was another issue."

Though Bangalore released their big names into the auction pool, Jennings revealed that they had done so with the intention of buying them back. "During the auction process, it was difficult to say if we would be able to fight the prices of players like Rahul Dravid and Robin Uthappa once they crossed a certain amount of money. We felt we can't afford that, given the holistic view of the team, and it wouldn't fit into the balance. Kolkata bought two players for half their budget - I don't think that's a wise thing either."

The biggest change, though, came right at the top, with Daniel Vettori taking over the reins from Anil Kumble. Jennings wanted Kumble to continue playing, forming a potentially formidable spin and leadership association with Vettori. "With the skills he has, Kumble can play until he is 50," Jennings said. "But it was his decision to stop and I have to respect that. Vettori is a world-class bowler, and very different to Kumble. Having both of them on the field, as captain and vice-captain, would have been superb."

Jennings disagreed that Vettori was a more defensive captain than Kumble, saying his leadership style in the IPL was moulded by the resources he had at his disposal, especially on the bowling front. Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis and Vinay Kumar had formed an incisive and varied seam attack last year, but this time the responsibility has fallen on youngsters Abhimanyu Mithun and S Aravind. Jennings is acutely aware of the weakness on that front, and expects more out of part-timers like Kohli.

"Kohli underestimates his skill as a bowler," Jennings said. "He is a lazy bowler. He doesn't realise his potential at it, or work hard enough. Especially in ODI cricket, he can create a new dimension and add value. Hopefully he's going to recognise that later on down the line."

 
 
"I think Kohli is going to be India's next Sachin or Sehwag ... A lot of bowlers around the world are going to retire early when they see the way he develops" Ray Jennings
 

Jennings is pleased with the way Zaheer has stepped up after an indifferent start to the season. "With Zaheer, the skill was always there, but the mind was a little tired after carrying India through the World Cup, and understandably so. Mithun and Aravind are inexperienced players, still learning about the IPL. Zaheer bowls in critical periods, and has been world-class in the last couple of games. We have played on batsman-friendly wickets, even in Kochi and Delhi, which have now become slow and low. I don't look at the stats, I see where the ball is landing, and Zaheer has got it in the right areas."

His equation with Zaheer reveals a crucial insight into his coaching methodology. "It was important that Zaheer became a father figure to the youngsters. I get him to stand at mid-on and speak to the bowlers, like he does for India, but initially he wasn't accustomed to doing that in a new environment. It took time for me to educate him about the expectations we have from him."

So, when Zaheer walked out at No. 3 in the game against Deccan Chargers - a move that has been roundly criticised since - it wasn't a reckless gamble, but a planned gambit, Jennings says, to convey those expectations to Zaheer. "I needed Zaheer to understand he is a senior player, and promoting him was a motivational move to make him realise that he can be called upon as a pinch-hitter. His dismissal [for a three-ball duck] had no impact on the game - AB de Villiers faced seven balls and got a nought, but no one said anything about that. I am a believer that senior players must understand that I am going to be backing them. Dilshan was out of form and Mayank Agarwal is inexperienced - I was looking for an impact player who could kick-start the chase."


Tillakaratne Dilshan rocks back to pull, Royal Challengers Bangalore v Pune Warriors, IPL 2011, Bangalore, April 29, 2011
Bangalore's fate this season could well hinge on how seamlessly they replace the England-bound Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top © Associated Press
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Next, the impact player arrived, and how. Chris Gayle announced himself with a brutal century against Kolkata, and Bangalore haven't lost a game since. Bangalore's environment has given Gayle the freedom to express himself, and he has responded with a vigour rarely seen in his recent games for West Indies.

Another player who has flourished under Jennings' watch is Kohli, who has risen above the 'angry brat' stereotype in the last two years. Jennings has monitored Kohli closely since his Under-19 days, and takes pride in his development as Bangalore's middle-order bulwark this season. "I have always said Kohli can be a captain, but he needs to grow up with a good structure of people around him," Jennings said. "MS Dhoni is a very laidback guy, but Kohli is a fiery guy which is good in situations and bad at times. You can't change that, it is a part of the person.

"As a batsman, I think Kohli is going to be India's next Sachin or Sehwag. He's got the amazing ability to change his batting to the speed of the game. We saw that in his knock against Delhi, where the timing and speed of his hands were spectacular, on a pitch where everyone else struggled. A lot of bowlers around the world are going to retire early when they see the way Kohli grows."

Bangalore's progress into the play-offs could hinge on how seamlessly they replace the England-bound Tillakaratne Dilshan at the top, but Jennings is happy with the options he has. "Rilee Rossouw, Jonathan Vandiar, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mohammad Kaif or Saurabh Tiwary could open," Jennings said. "I am not too concerned, especially since Dilshan hasn't performed; we can only move the process forward. Vandiar sparkled in the Champions League, and Roussouw is probably South Africa's next big player, as well as the best fielder currently in the country. There is also Tiwary, who has so far struggled for opportunities since Kohli and AB have played a lot of balls. He could be the one moving up."

A week is a long time in the IPL, and Bangalore have had that long a break since their game against Pune Warriors. Jennings knows the interval can be a double-edged sword, and will work hard towards refocusing his men on the task at hand when they play against Kings XI Punjab on Friday.

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by NidheyaSuresh on (May 8, 2011, 18:23 GMT)

@sweetspot- Thanks a ton :) I sure hope so too. I see a lot of myself in Virat Kohli & hence my admiration for him grows!

And I agree with US_Indian- Kaif was not given to play according to his potential. :(

Posted by soumil6 on (May 8, 2011, 17:48 GMT)

I think they should have retained Dale Steyn and Jaques Kallis surely.

Posted by sweetspot on (May 7, 2011, 9:01 GMT)

@Nidheya - great to know you are an aspiring writer and have Virat for a role model of sorts. Virat is immensely talented, but he needs to rein in his adrenaline to become a "great" player. It is not necessary to achieve anything at a certain age, although Virat has done fantastically well at a very young age. It is good to have Dhoni at the helm of the Indian team, for he knows how to channelize Virat's energy and get the best out of a motley bunch. Sachin is ten times more aggressive than Virat because of a very positive "superego" - that quality which doesn't let mere ego come to the surface, but a massive sense of self esteem that spurs him on to great heights. Virat has time and so do you! Keep writing and don't even notice anything else.

Posted by US_Indian on (May 6, 2011, 21:22 GMT)

Mr.Jennings, I respect you as a reasonably good coach and your analysis of player to player and potentials. There is no second thought about Kumble the great, tireless warrior, most under rated and under recognized among the players by the Indian media, masses and above all the BCCI in my opinion he is more than equally responsible for India's performance than Sachin. Now your analysis of Zaheer is perfect, very understandable and defnitely youngsters will benefit from his presence, Virat is a good batsman, fielder, but no captaincy material, I can understand as coach you want to backup your players but for gods sake dont take it too far, he has a long way to go atleast 5/6 years of consistent performance to be even talked about. One player who has always had vast potential, talent and performances but always overlooked, underrated, ill treated by BCCI, media,masses and even IPL guys is Md.Kaif, i bet if you tap his potential you have got a winner on your hands, the best captain.

Posted by NidheyaSuresh on (May 6, 2011, 18:39 GMT)

Virat Kohli, you are my hero. And this is not because I'm a girl. He inspires me a lot. I believe in achieving while you are young. And he has done that! :) And I am said to be a very aggressive person, so yeah!

I am an aspiring writer.

Keep on being the man you are VK, you'll reach places!

Posted by NidheyaSuresh on (May 6, 2011, 17:57 GMT)

Virat Kohli, you are my hero. And this is not because I'm a girl. He inspires me a lot. I believe in achieving while you are young. And he has done that! :) And I am said to be a very aggressive person, so yeah!

I am an aspiring writer.

Keep on being the man you are VK, you'll reach places!

Posted by mits6 on (May 6, 2011, 15:32 GMT)

@ dhanesh , Dear mate , ganguli , dravid , kumble , Dhoni were not Mahatmas, but behave responsibly . Dhoni a new face was appointed captain only after SRT advocated his name ahead of yuvraj based on his good behaviour.

Posted by InnocentGuy on (May 6, 2011, 15:17 GMT)

I think the boards must have a rule for selection apart from performance alone. On-field behaviour. It should be a critical thing for being a part of the team. Even if you perform as well as Sachin does, you will be dropped if you don't exhibit the qualities of a gentleman. But then the boards themselves are run by greedy butt cavities. Sigh!

Posted by   on (May 6, 2011, 12:56 GMT)

@ Vikas; Virat Kohli is by some distance, India's most matured young cricketer in the last couple of years. He has already captained India Under 19s to the World Cup once. If he matures at the same rate, he will definitely lead India in the future. Besides, you can't have Mahatma Gandhi captain the current Indian cricket team. Get real...

Posted by Gupta.Ankur on (May 6, 2011, 12:35 GMT)

What? Firstly you cannot have Sachin and Sehwag in the same sentence and secondly, Kohli is a great young player and if he keeps his head clean........he will do well

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Nitin Sundar Social media manager Nitin spent his formative years perfecting the art of landing the googly, before blossoming into a book-cricket specialist. More excellence followed in the underarm version of the game before, like the majority of India's misguided youth, he started taking studies seriously. After four forgettable years of electrical engineering, followed by a rigorous MBA and 16 months in the strategy consulting industry, he began to ponder life's more profound issues. Such as the angle made by Brian Lara's bat with the horizontal at the peak of his back-lift. A move to ESPNcricinfo followed and Nitin is now a prolific nurdler in office cricket, with a questionable technique against the short ball.

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