The Bangalore rain on Tuesday washed away RCB’s match against Sunrisers Hyderabad and dented their chances of qualifying for the play-offs. With only two wins in eight matches, the runners up of IPL 2016 have slipped to sixth position on the points table.
From here on Bangalore has to win almost every match they play in order to keep their hopes of reaching the playoffs intact. This is a monumental task but RCB boasts a strong squad featuring some top quality T20 players.
Hence, they can still make it if they improve their performance drastically. Here are the five areas where the team must work on if they wish to qualify for the playoffs.
#1 Opening pair
The top order often scores the most runs in T20. All orange cap winners so far in IPL have batted as openers. Even this year, Hashim Amla is the current bearer of the orange cap and six players from the top ten run scorers in IPL 2017 are openers.
However for RCB, after eight games in this season, they are still to get their best opening pair right. They have used five pairs in seven innings and ideally, they would prefer Gayle and Kohli at the top. But Gayle has looked off-colour this year and has been the main culprit in RCB’s powerless performance in the powerplays. Among all teams, only RCB (6.78) has a run rate below seven in the first six overs - indicative of their poor show so far.
A major worry for Kohli and team management is to find consistency at the top. Kohli will most probably bat as an opener and it looks like RCB may drop the under firing Gayle to accommodate Watson or Travis Head as an opener. Among Indian players, Mandeep Singh and Vishnu Vinod are decent options. But RCB needs their openers to fire ASAP or else they would soon be entertaining the prospect of playing their last few games without any meaning.
#2 The form of Kohli
Virat Kohli is undoubtedly the spearhead of RCB’s batting line-up. His form has always been a key factor for RCB’s performance in the last few year. And every year when Kohli has averaged above 40, Bangalore finished the season, not below number five at the points table.
It is not only Kohli’s runs that matter but it is also the manner in which this right-hand batsman scores these runs. His flamboyance and aggression inspire other players to perform and hence, Bangalore right now needs the real Virat Kohli to come to the fore.
The Indian captain has scored two fifties in four innings so far but to lift the team, ‘King Kohli’ has to lead from the front.
#3 Contribution from overseas batsmen
A batting heavy side, Bangalore has always used most of the services of their overseas players in the batting department. In six out of nine IPL seasons so far, an overseas batsman has been their highest run scorer.
But this year, apart from ABD, the overseas batsmen have failed to fire for Bangalore resulting in their below par performance. Maybe this is the right time for Royal Challengers to show confidence in Travis Head and offer him an extended run.
With AB de Villiers’ nonavailability in the later stages of the IPL, Bangalore has to ensure one among Gayle and Watson hits form as well.
#4 Performance of pace bowlers
In IPL, RCB’s best seasons were 2016, 2011 and 2009. In these three seasons they were the runners-up and during two of these three seasons, one of their fast bowlers was among the top three wicket takers.
In 2016 it was Shane Watson (20 wickets) and in 2011 Srinath Aravind (21 wickets).
This year their best pace bowler in terms of wickets has been Tymal Mills with five. Forget the overall tournament figures, Mills ranks at number four among RCB’s list of highest wicket takers.
This poor show by the pacers is also a huge concern for the Royal Challengers and if they want to stay alive this season, their pacers must step up.
RCB are likely to play only one foreign pacer in their playing XI and even after not so great performance, Tymal Mills should be their first preference. The England quick hasn’t been at his best, but amongst the lot, he surely is the best bet. His speciality of bowling in the death can be a huge factor and hence the support team must help Mills to get his rhythm back.
Among the Indian pacers, there are not many options. Srinath Aravind has limitations while the uncapped Aniket Choudhary is too risky to use in this make or break situation.
Stuart Binny, on the other hand, has enjoyed success with the new ball and has control over swing. He can be effective for a couple of overs in the beginning and can also pick early wickets owing to his ability to swing the ball.
#5 Indian players must step up
Apart from the heavyweight Indians, a critical factor of success for teams in IPL has been the performance of second-rate Indians. This year for Mumbai, Nitish Rana and Krunal Pandya have won crucial games while Pune has benefitted immensely due to strong starts of Rahul Tripathi.
Last year, RCB enjoyed tremendous success and KL Rahul was an important contributor by being their third highest run scorer (397 runs).
This year Bangalore has invested and shown trust in Kedar Jadhav and Mandeep Singh. Jadhav started well but in the last five innings, he has reached double figures only twice with 38* as his best score.
Bangalore has used Jadhav in the middle order owing to his impressive strike rate and for the next games too he would bat there. But, when ABD is unavailable for the later stages, promoting Jadhav up in the batting order won’t be a bad idea.
Mandeep Singh, on the other hand, has been a failure with scores of 1,0,1 in his last three innings. His fate now is uncertain and it will be interesting to see if Kohli and Co still show confidence in him.
Among the options, Vishnu Vinod had a terrific domestic season and he could be RCB’s surprise package.