Royal Challengers Bangalore were blindsided in their opening match against Kolkata Knight Riders, but they won't be straying too much from their plan. At least not this early in the season, according to head coach Daniel Vettori, who said captain Virat Kohli will continue to bat at No. 3 and that a sixth bowling option is not on their minds on the eve of their first home fixture against Kings XI Punjab on Friday.
"You have to be flexible," said Vettori. "The reason we wanted Brendon [McCullum] and Quinton [de Kock] at the top is that they're so dynamic and [we felt] Virat and AB [de Villiers] can take over. That was the thinking. We've obviously got Quinton's all-round game. He's a keeper as well and Brendon did a great job in the first game. So at this stage, that's the plan, but it could change."
The plan did seem to work against KKR, where both McCullum and de Villiers made scores in the forties around a struggling Kohli. But a freakish over from Nitish Rana had de Villiers and Kohli falling off consecutive balls and Royal Challengers' inexperienced middle order was forced to play a steadying job.
"There's always a lot of little things when you're analysing a T20 game. If I were to pinpoint two things, it'd be losing those two wickets and the way we bowled to [Sunil] Narine," Vettori said.
Narine's 17-ball fifty was his second Powerplay assault against Royal Challengers in as many games, following last year's fixture where he had equalled Yusuf Pathan's 15-ball fifty, which was an IPL record for the fastest fifty at the time. While that performance was symptomatic of a long-term bowling depth issue, Royal Challengers would not have expected a repeat this year. Particularly after an auction where they believed to have put together, as Kohli said to the media recently, their most balanced line-up of all time.
Perhaps even more damaging was the fact that their spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar, were taken for plenty during the Powerplay - a phase where they've both carved good reputations for themselves in the IPL. It meant the pressure fell on the fast bowlers, one of whom was debutant Kulwant Khejroliya, who couldn't wrest the game back in Royal Challengers' favour. But Vettori didn't think the bowlers did too badly apart from the spell to Narine, and he wasn't too stressed about having a sixth bowling option, a view batsman Mandeep Singh had endorsed in the post-match conference last week.
"There's five bowlers there. Kulwant's new to the team but we backed him because of his performances coming in, in the T20 format," Vettori said. "We look at it more like an opportunity for five bowlers to do their job rather than wait for someone to fail and then the sixth bowler picks up [from there]."
If the pitch at the Chinnaswamy Stadium is consistent with the slow turners that were produced last year, five bowlers would be enough. Even on the conditions front, Vettori seems confident.
"I think the reflection after last season was that the pitch wasn't what we're used to. But two teams played on it and the other team won more often than not. So we don't want to use the pitch as an excuse. We need to be adaptable and I suppose that was part of the selection criteria at the auction. [We bought] players who could perform in any conditions, not only on a 200 or 220 type of wicket. So we think we've got a group of guys who can really adapt to any conditions."