The Airtel Champions League T20 was the perfect stage for Royal Challengers Bangalore to set themselves apart from others by performance as the best IPL franchise, but sadly they failed to qualify for the semis. This was a huge blow considering that they were favourites and also had the local knowledge of the playing conditions.
Bangalore has found an outstanding opening pair in Jaques Kallis and Robin Uthappa. Kallis has been more of the anchor role player and Uthappa the aggressor, which has helped RCB greatly as they didn’t lose many wickets in the pursuit of runs in the first six overs. But I do feel that Bangalore failed to capitalize heavily on the powerplays. They did a decent job in the powerplays choosing conventional methods and taking the calculated risks, as opposed to the Trinidad and Tobago team that attacked the bowlers ruthlessly disregarding their reputations. Trinidad and Tobago was the only team in CLT20 that adopted a really aggressive tactic for the powerplays that paid rich dividends. Perhaps other teams should follow suit. RCB were more circumspect in the Powerplays choosing caution over aggression. I think this has to be revised. I do hope in the future we may see RCB playing mixing caution and aggression. RCB have perhaps the one of the best finishers in Ross Taylor. Taylor has been an outstanding gem in the RCB’s batting line-up. It is no surprise that Taylor averages the most when compared to his teammates with an outstanding average of 76.00 from 4 matches. His big hitting gave the late flourish that RCB needed and Taylor with his strike rate of 190.00 is surely RCB’s top batting performer. The only lack of Taylor is consistency, but this is understandable, because when a player looks to score fast, huge risks are taken that sometimes don’t pay off.
RCB under Kumble have a great leader, but Kumble the bowler looked out of sorts in this tournament. Kumble bowled at a very expensive economy rate of 9.71, which I feel was a major let down as he was RCB’s main bowler. Nevertheless he managed to bag 5 of the 24 wickets that the Royal Challengers took in the tournament being Challenger’s highest wicket taker for the tournament. RCB’s batting is strong, but the bowling looks a little weak. The spin compartment is RCB’s greatest strength. Kumble is world class and he has proven that at the highest level, while Roelof van der Merwe is specially made for T20. Van der Merwe is a miserly bowler, and his economy in CLT20 shows just that. He managed to scalp 4 wickets with an incredible economy rate of just a little above 6 (6.20). Kumble and Van der Merwe can strangle the opposition in the middle overs. RCB’s main weakness is their pace bowling department. Praveen Kumar is good with the new ball, but he lacks support from the other end. Kallis is a good bowler, but I strongly feel that he fails to use the advantage of the new ball. Dale Steyn looks out of sorts in the T20 game, and the other Indian domestic pacers lack experience, and have been expensive. RCB needs to find an ideal new ball partner for Praveen Kumar. Also bowling at the death needs to be a skill that needs fine tuning among the bowlers.
Another main reason of RCB’s failure to qualify for the semis I feel was due to the injuries sustained by Kallis and Manish Pandey. This hampered the team composition. I also feel that RCB’s team composition was not always right. The playing 11 consisted of Mark Boucher. Mark Boucher is a dangerous player and an even more dangerous player in T20’s, but I feel that he was wasted by sending him at 6 and 7. Boucher got only one innings to bat in the entire tournament and faced only 12 balls. An extraordinary player like Boucher is wasted so down the order. If he is being sent in at 6 and 7, then I believe that he should be dropped as his talent would not be put to full use. Instead of Boucher, another foreign (overseas) player could have been chosen bolstering the bowling. In this scenario Robin Uthappa would have to have kept the wickets.
In fielding, RCB is exceptional when compared to other teams. Still catches are being dropped. Catches win matches and this must be rectified. The fielding standards can still improve, I feel.
Royal Bangalore was one of the better balanced sides and definitely one of the more powerful sides, but sadly CLT20 didn’t prove to be a happy hunting ground for them. There’s no honour in losing, but there is always pride in playing for your team and representing them.
Cricket Association of Bengal has roped in former Pakistani fast bowler Waqar Younis and retired Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for a 30-day development programme beginning March 15 for a three-year contract.