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'We just weren't sharp enough with the bat' - Hesson says RCB implosion not due to distraction or team combination

Coach says AB de Villiers did not keep as the team cannot "risk him at the moment behind the stumps"

Varun Shetty
Varun Shetty
Royal Challengers Bangalore coach Mike Hesson said his team's big defeat to kick off the second half of the IPL simply came down to the batters' inability to adjust in tough conditions. It didn't have anything to do with either team composition or "distractions" like Virat Kohli announcing his resignation from the captaincy, he said.
Royal Challengers were bowled out for 92 after electing to bat against Kolkata Knight Riders, with both Kohli and AB de Villiers falling for single-digit scores for only the eighth time in the franchise's history. RCB have won a match on only one occasion when that has been the case previously.
"No, I don't think so," Hesson said when asked about Kohli's statement before the season resumed. "I think it was important to get any form of distraction out of the way early and we spoke about making that announcement as soon as possible so all players were aware of it. It certainly hasn't had an impact on tonight's performance. We weren't as sharp as we needed to be with the bat, we didn't adapt to conditions, we lost wickets in clumps - everything that you can't do as a batting group. But I'm still confident in this group that we'll turn it around quickly."
A striking feature of RCB's XI on the night was the change in their batting composition. KS Bharat and Sachin Baby were brought into the side, with the former taking on wicketkeeping duties. Hesson pointed out that it was a forced move as they had to preserve de Villiers, who usually keeps for them. In the bargain, they had to leave out Rajat Patidar, who had just managed to break into the side during the first half of the season.
"I think you saw that AB de Villiers didn't have the gloves," he said. "So certainly we've got to look after AB. He's a very important player for us and not one that we can risk at the moment behind the stumps.
"That was unfortunate for Rajat, that we had to pick a wicketkeeper to bat No. 3. And to be fair to KS Bharat, he's been outstanding in the camp leading up to this game. Certainly deserves his inclusion. And in terms of Sachin Baby - we wanted to have a real batsman at six. We had the ability to still have six bowlers, and once again Sachin is a left-hander and gave us options with the ball if we needed as well. So that was the reason - with AB not keeping, we needed to make that change at the top."
Hesson said the team had discussed the prospect of Kohli batting at No. 3 to accommodate someone like Patidar at the top, but hinted that it was never really on the cards given Kohli's move to opening for the majority of their games since last season.
"Certainly a discussion but we were pretty clear in terms of Virat batting at the top," he said. "Even during the last campaign here in Dubai a year ago. It's a lot harder to start against spin, potentially coming out at three and if the wicket starts deteriorating... We're pretty happy with Dev [Padikkal] and Virat opening the batting for us.
"Team composition wasn't really the problem today, we got ourselves to 1 for 42 [41]. Even going back further than that, we got the toss wrong. We scrapped to 1 for 41... certainly wasn't a 92 wicket, but to get rolled for 92 there - we should have found a way to get ourselves to 150. Whether that would be enough or not would be debatable as well because the ball started to slide on [in the second innings]. All in all, we weren't sharp enough with the bat."

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo