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RCB have a spin problem and it is hurting them

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Last updated on 27 Apr 2023 | 02:22 AM
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RCB have a spin problem and it is hurting them

Royal Challengers Bangalore's playoff qualification will depend on how their batters adapt against spin in away games

“We deserve to lose because we were not professional enough in the field,” said the Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli after the 21-run defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday (April 26). 

“The bowlers were bowling the decent areas but we did not hold on to our chances,” he went on to say. 

Kohli is bang on in his assessment. Nitish Rana was dropped twice early in his innings of 48 off 21 balls. Earlier, Suyash Prabhudesai missed a tough chance of Jason Roy in the sixth over. Roy belted four sixes in the over and scored 56 off 29 balls before being dismissed. These missed opportunities cost Royal Challengers Bangalore 20-30 runs which eventually was the margin of defeat. 

However, the game highlighted a concerning pattern for the side. It is not the first instance they have been slowed down by spin this season. For the second time, the opposition spinners have shot them down, both times against KKR. The Kolkata franchise can be termed as the most choke-holding spin attack of the competition with three mystery spinners. The Impact Player rule has enabled them to play all three of them together. 

For starters, let's not get fooled by the raw numbers. RCB don’t have the worst batting statistics against spin this season. That unfortunate title goes to Delhi Capitals. RCB are somewhere in the middle. 

However, there are question marks when you put a few other factors into perspective. They have played six of their eight matches at home - the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. It has been a punishing ground for spinners this year. At 9.3 runs per over, the venue has the worst economy for spinners. Yet, RCB have average numbers playing spin. 

In home conditions, they have scored at only 8.6 runs per over. Their opponents have out-batted them playing spin in their own den and done so by a considerable margin. 

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There are no doubts RCB should have done better against spin. Against KKR in Match 36, they bowled only five overs of spin. In response, KKR delivered 13 overs of spin bowling with the part-timer, Nitish Rana also rolling his arm over. There was a little bit of grip on the surface and the Knight Riders maximized it effectively to finish the game long before the last ball was bowled. 

Varun Chakaravarthy and Suyash Sharma wreaked havoc. They snapped 5/57 in eight overs between them. Five of the top six batters. Suyash pouched Faf du Plessis and Shahbaz Ahmed. Chakravarthy pocketed Glenn Maxwell, Mahipal Lomror and Dinesh Karthik. Suyash had du Plessis in the third over of the innings, followed by Shahbaz Ahmed soon after.

In Match 9, the last time these two sides met in Kolkata, their spinners snaffled 9/66  in 11.4 overs. It is the most wickets taken by spin in any IPL game. In Bangalore, the returns from spinners were 5/107. KKR replicated their spin-bowling brilliance against RCB. 

“We thought it [the pitch] was dry and it would turn,” said the KKR skipper Rana at the end of the match. 

Although one can question if the Kolkata spinners were at their best. Sunil Narine, the biggest threat, conceded 0/41 in four overs. Both Suyash and Chakravarthy bowled heavily in the short-pitch region. It is a severe length for spinners, irrespective of the pitch. 

The RCB batters couldn’t cash in. Instead, they perished to that length. They scored 69 off 49 such balls but lost three wickets: Maxwell, Lomror and Karthik. 

Kohli battled it out but as KKR were allowed to bowl 13 overs of spin, he could only nudge them around for 1s and 2s. 

Maxwell fell to poor shot selection. Karthik, meanwhile, mistimed an 8M+ delivery straight to the fielder. It was a shocker that he didn’t adjust to the holding nature of the surface after keeping wickets on it for 20 overs. Moreover, this is the second occasion when Karthik is holed out off a rank half-tracker. 

KKR created pressure in the field but RCB shot themselves in the foot. 

“We ended up hitting the fielder to balls which weren't wicket-taking,” assessed Kohli in the post-match interview. 

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RCB have a spin problem and it is not unforeseen. When Faf du Plessis was signed last year, it was evident that he and Kohli will be the opening pair for the franchise. Teams assure at least one hitter of both bowling types at the top. RCB have two batters who can be tied down by spin. 

Du Plessis has worked on his game, scoring at 149 this season, his second-highest strike-rate against spin in an IPL season. Kohli seems to have made peace with his limitations against spin. He is covering up for it with better intent against pace. The 34-year-old has a strike-rate of 112.5 against spin as compared to 169.7 against pace. However, RCB have still slowed down with the introduction of spin. 

It has led to the feeling that they are leaving out a few runs in the middle. It happened against Lucknow, Delhi and Punjab. 

Rajat Patidar was their best batter of spin in 2022. He scored 166 runs facing spin, averaging 41.5 at a strike-rate of 172.9. Once he was deemed unfit for IPL 2023, the onus to unsettle the spinners fell entirely on the shoulders of Glenn Maxwell. 

RCB are playing Mahipal Lomror as a spin basher but those hopes have not met the expectation level as yet. 

Maxwell has done a good job in bashing spin (strike-rate 167.6) but averages only 20.7. Kohli has the lowest strike-rate. Du Plessis has exceeded expectations. But none of the other batters have managed 50 runs versus spin as yet. 

Interestingly, with Kohli and du Plessis in the middle, RCB have scored at 7.5 runs per over against spin. When Maxwell and du Plessis have batted together, the same number is 10.7. 

Hence, it is a surprise that except for Delhi and Punjab, no other side has begun with spin against du Plessis and Kohli. 

The only explanation is the conditions at the Chinnaswamy Stadium where RCB have played six of their eight games. The ball has swung early on and the touring captains have been tempted to unleash their pacers first up. 

Moving forward, that advantage will be cut off. RCB have five successive away games scheduled hereon. Their next two games are in Lucknow and Delhi where there will be plenty of spin. And the pitches will be worn out in the second half of the tournament. 

Placed fifth on the points table, RCB have a tough road ahead. They are the only side that made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. A fourth successive qualification rests on how their batters adapt themselves to tackle spin. 

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