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For the Royal Challengers Bangalore fandom, watching the team bounce back after a series of losses in the VIVO IPL 2018 must have been an exhilarating experience. Whether this is their year remains to be seen, but for now, it has brought back memories of the 2016 edition, where RCB bounced back from the bottom to make it to the playoffs, credit as much to their skills and tactics as to the relentless support of the loyal fans.
Apart from Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians, RCB boast of the most passionate fan following in the entire IPL setup. But while Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai have won the trophy before, RCB have come within sniffing distance of the trophy in 2009, 2011 and 2016 when they finished runners-up.
Yet, year after year, the entire Chinnaswamy Stadium is awash in red of the home side, flags waving furiously and chants of AAR-CEE-BEE ringing from every stand. Interestingly, RCB boasts of a female fan base of 40 percent, much higher than most other IPL teams, and the #ItsHerGameToo and the 12th man campaign have only added to that number.
So far this season, RCB has managed to win three games of their six games at home, and those have been their only triumph in eight matches overall. But that hasn't dampened their spirits of the fans at all. A few fans even gathered at the Cubbon Park to create a banner that read 'WE BELIEVE IN YOU RCB' along with some help from the West Block Blues of Bengaluru Football Club.
Now, as RCB embarks on the road for five consecutive matches away from home, there will be no dearth of support from the loyal fans.
"It is almost a brand new team, so first few stutters are expected," says Sheetal SM, who runs a sports NGO for underprivileged kids. "But now that RCB has found a settled combination, I think they'll definitely go all the way and against all odds."
While skipper Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers have been fans' favourites for long now, the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Brendon McCullum and Mandeep Singh are also a big hit with the fans.
"Despite the early wickets, there is a certain sense of assurance we get when Mandeep Singh comes out to bat," says Wafa Aga, a student. "We know that he'll go all guns blazing and give a late thrust to the innings."
"When AB de Villiers missed a few games due to fever, we were a little worried about the batting, but McCullum allayed all our fears," says a beaming Pavithra Narayan.
Earlier this season, de Villiers had waxed eloquent about the Chinnaswamy crowd and how their support always egged the players. "This is the best crowd in the world; I love playing here," he had said after the six-wicket win over Delhi Daredevils. "They keep backing us every game but I must say, whenever you get into that zone that crowd is only a buzz."
So, what do the fangirls think of RCB's chances, especially now they have a huge test of winning all the matches away from home.
"Things have fallen into place finally, especially on the bowling front, if we can continue in the same manner, there will be no stopping RCB," says Wafa. "The way Umesh Yadav and Southee have been bowling in the last two games, it just gives a feeling that RCB can take on any opposition now."
Pavithra, who has been an ardent RCB supporter since its inception in 2008, echoes the sentiment, "There is no cause of concern on the batting front, Kohli and de Villiers are in form, Baz and Quinton de Kock have been chipping in well, Manan Vohra too has shown his batting prowess in the last games, and the bowling chinks have been ironed as well. So fingers crossed on an epic comeback like we did in 2016."
Despite the reshuffling of players and up and down performances over the last decade, RCB's fans have stood by them through thick and thin. Now it's the time for the franchise to repay the faith.