de Villiers feels playing without pressures of captaincy will free up Kohli going forward
The team was branded a Test XI in 2008, when they went big on players with experience, in the hope that they would adjust quickly to T20 too, but they managed to only cobble together four wins. The next three seasons, however, RCB turned things around with two runners-up finishes.
Over the years, the franchise has spent big on some players at the auction - like they did for Yuvraj Singh (2014), Dinesh Karthik (2015) and Chris Morris (2020) - but have seldom backed these big buys for a second season if they haven’t impressed the first time. However, despite their fluctuating fortunes, the franchise has continued to keep faith in Virat Kohli as captain since 2013. In 2021, they signed Glenn Maxwell for close to US$2 million.
Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble helped RCB rise from near rock bottom in 2008 to runners-up in 2009. Chris Gayle orchestrated a magic run in 2011, almost single-handedly taking them to the final. Similarly, in 2016, Kohli transformed what was shaping up to be a mid-table finish into a sensational late dash to the final by scoring a record number of runs.
In 2008, RCB’s squad, heavy on Test veterans, found themselves chasing 223 in their first IPL game, and sent in Dravid and Wasim Jaffer, two doyens of red-ball cricket, to open. Midway through that season, their CEO, Charu Sharma, was sacked after a string of failures, director Martin Crowe resigned, and the franchise installed a new set-up ahead of 2009. Since 2016, they have changed coaches every season.
The team lacked depth, and the captain, Dravid, seemed under pressure all the time. Tactically they had a strong board but they lacked the personnel to challenge tall targets or set up scores. They ended a poor seventh, with just four wins in 14 games.
New captain Kevin Pietersen did little to change the notion of RCB being slow starters. By the time Kumble took over as captain, RCB had lost four games out of six, but he inspired a terrific turnaround, and the team made it to the final. Manish Pandey emerged as a star, scoring the first century by an Indian in the IPL.
RCB got to the semi-finals but then faltered against the Mumbai Indians in a tall chase - though they then dismantled the Deccan Chargers, the side they lost to in the 2009 final, in a third-place playoff. Robin Uthappa broke through with a run of consistent scores this season, but it proved to be his last year with the franchise.
Daniel Vettori took charge as captain but RCB started poorly again, with the batting failing to click. Then Gayle came into the side as a replacement for Dirk Nannes and made a bruising century against the Kolkata Knight Riders, the franchise that released him. The top run-maker that year, he took RCB to the final, where they were blown away by the Chennai Super Kings.
A topsy-turvy season came down to RCB needing a win in their final league game against the Deccan Chargers to make the playoffs, but they imploded in a low-scoring chase, taken apart by former RCB man Dale Steyn, who took 3 for 8. Gayle breached the 700-run mark this season and remained their best performer.
Another 700-plus year for Gayle, including 175 not out against Pune Warriors, the highest individual score in T20 cricket. The season also marked a shift in leadership, with Kohli taking over during the season from Vettori, but the title continued to elude the Royal Challengers.
Ray Jennings left as head coach and Vettori took his place. In the auction, RCB broke the bank for Yuvraj Singh, but he failed to deliver. Kohli had an ordinary season, Gayle worse, and RCB struggled, with just five wins. Still, Mitchell Starc’s arrival was something of a silver lining, and Yuzvendra Chahal emerged as a breakthrough star.
Dinesh Karthik was the big-ticket name this season, but he made only 141 runs in 11 innings and was promptly released. The bowling impressed, with good performances from Chahal, Starc, Harshal Patel and S Aravind. The batting continued to revolve around Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers, and they couldn’t pull off a win on a square turner in the qualifier against CSK.
Kohli made a little short of 1000 runs in the season, single-handedly turning the team’s fortunes around. After racking up five losses in their first seven games, they got all the way to the final, where they came up short against SRH in a big chase: Gayle and Kohli laid a good platform, but the middle order unravelled in the face of intense pressure.
Miserable batting performances defined this dismal year. Kohli, Gayle and de Villiers had injury concerns, and the latter two made just 416 runs at an average of under 25. There was simply too much pressure on the middle order, who succumbed. The end result was three wins in 14 games; the nadir was a 49 all-out against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
No Gayle, so Kohli and de Villiers shouldered the run-making responsibility and scored 530 and 480 respectively. The next best among the middle-order batsmen was Mandeep Singh, with 252 runs. RCB’s inability to zero in on an ideal XI early cost them. They had a small chance of qualifying in their final game against the Rajasthan Royals, but crumbled.
Kohli took on most of the batting load again, with little support from the other batsmen. Death bowling remained a problem, the spinners struggled, and it left them with too much to do in the second half of the competition. Kohli was vocal about his frustration and helplessness and it led to a full overhaul of the coaching staff ahead of the 2020 season.
With seven wins in ten games, a top-two finish - which would give them two cracks at the final - loomed, but they lost the next four games to scramble into the playoffs on net run rate. In the eliminator, they ran into their bogey team - the Sunrisers Hyderabad - and fell short. They ended the tournament with five losses on the trot.
RCB jumped at the opportunity when Delhi passed up the chance to acquire the 2008 Under-19 World Cup-winning captain. Twelve years on, Kohli remains the only player in the league to have played for only one franchise. In 2016 he scored a record 973 runs, with four centuries, to inspire RCB’s run to the final.AB de Villiers
He joined the franchise in 2011 and became an integral part of the leadership group. He kept wicket until 2013, before back injuries made him give up the gloves. Has has often had to man an inexperienced middle order along with Kohli. When Aaron Finch was introduced into the mix, de Villiers was freed up to play the role of a finisher.Chris Gayle
Gayle's rise in the world of T20 leagues began in the 2011 IPL, when he joined RCB as a replacement player. He was the top run scorer that year and the next (when he was also named MVP). Back injuries affected his performances towards the latter part of his stint, and he was released at the end of the 2017 season.Devdutt Padikkal
He warmed the bench in 2019, with Parthiv Patel preferred over him. But he broke the door down with his performances in domestic cricket and didn't let the pandemic-induced break disturb his rhythm. His 473 runs were the most for a Royal Challengers batsman in IPL 2020; they were also the most by an uncapped Indian player in his debut season.Yuzvendra Chahal
Having spent three years largely on the fringes at the Mumbai Indians, Chahal was bought for Rs 10 lakh (about $16,000) in 2014 and has since become RCB’s leading wicket-taker. He can bowl with the new ball at the Chinnaswamy or offer control on turners in the middle overs. Chahal was the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament in 2016.