In their last game against Delhi Capitals, Rajasthan Royals pulled the game back while bowling as they conceded 32 runs at the death. Thus, they restricted DC to a sub-par 161.
However, while chasing, RR lost by 13 runs as DC’s pacers proved too fiery for their Indian middle-order. When it came to their turn with the ball, Kagiso Rabada and co. went a step ahead and conceded only 25 in overs 16-20, their best in the death overs this year. For RR, it was their big offshore boys that let them down with the bat once again.
Will the foreign brigade stand up for RR?
Before the tournament started, there was a perception that the foreign players will carry RR. As it turned out, the domestic talent is keeping them afloat. The foreign players barring Jofra Archer have let them down so far, on performance and match-awareness.
Steve Smith started the tournament with a bang. Opening the batting at the batsmen’s paradise in Sharjah, Smith smashed 69(47) and 50(27) against CSK and KXIP in their first two games. Since then, his batting has gone downhill. He has single-digit scores in the last five innings. As of now, Smith is the lowest-averaging batsmen in this IPL from among players that are playing regularly.
It is not just the drought of runs but the manner in which Smith is batting is disturbing. More often he appears to be slogging right away and playing high-risk strokes. As a leader and anchor, RR need him to hold one end up while others can play around him.
Jos Buttler too has just one significant innings of 70 to his name this year. Outside it, he averages 18.8 in five innings. In terms of match awareness, Ben Stokes let them down in the game against DC.
At the halfway mark, RR needed 77 in the last 10 overs. They had eight wickets in hand with Stokes set at 41 off 34 balls. Given that two wickets lost were off Smith and Buttler, Stokes should have ideally played the situation and looked to be there till the end. As it turned out, he came down the track to attack the youngster Tushar Deshpande. Going ahead with his shot despite it being a slower ball, Stokes could achieve a distance that would have been short even at the smallest of venues. Caught at long-on, Stokes opened the door for DC’s bowlers and they obliged.
Using their foreign batsmen in the top-3, RR put the onus on young Indian batsmen and Robin Uthappa to get them across the line in the more challenging death overs. If they want to keep Uthappa in the mix, they will be more balanced if they swap him at number five with Stokes.
A flawed approach to T20 batting
Engrained in the minds of people closely following IPL 2020 is the fact that RCB are the slowest batting-unit in overs 7-15. Their run-rate of 6.9 in the middle-overs is way lower than even the next best, CSK (7.6).
Moreover, their balls per boundary record in this phase is 11.7. They are the only team with this record in double figures. SRH and RR, the ones above them next, are hitting a boundary once every 8.6 balls in overs 7-15.
Digging a little deeper, Virat Kohli has played 35% of RCB’s deliveries in the middle-overs, striking at mere 109.3 with 18.9 balls per boundary – the least frequent among all his team-mates. Comparing his performance with players in other teams who play the similar role of an anchor for their respective sides, Kohli lags by a distance.
If we observe Kohli, his approach in the middle-overs is to dab the ball in the gaps and run singles and doubles. There is no doubt that there is no-one quicker between the wickets than he is. However, until the death overs, there is hardly any calculated risks taken by Kohli this season.
In the game against KXIP, they baffled one and all by preserving AB de Villiers to bat as late as number six. While Washington Sundar and Shivam Dube were struggling, there was no effort by Kohli to take the pressure off them and attack the part-timer Glenn Maxwell. In the end, Maxwell quietly chipped in with four overs that went for 28 runs.
Kohli has done better with a more fluent approach in the middle-overs. His two best innings in this tournament so far have been 90*(52) against CSK and 72*(53) against RR. In both these innings, his strike-rate in the middle-overs was 129.17 and 137.5 respectively.
In this season, RCB are looking stronger than before. However, their approach in the middle-overs leaves too much for de Villiers and Kohli himself for the death overs. Something that can sting them at an important juncture.
Apart from their batting in the middle-overs, RCB need to improve on resource-utilization. Having other reliable bowling options at their disposal, had they not given the ball to Mohammed Siraj – who had conceded 24 runs in 2 overs - to bowl the 16th over against KXIP in their last match, the result could have been different.
In IPL 2020 so far, Yuzvendra Chahal has not finished his quota in two matches. RCB have lost both those games. While they have a balanced bowling attack, maximizing utilization is still a learning process for their leadership group.
Rajasthan Royals: Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Steve Smith (c), Sanju Samson, Robin Uthappa, Riyan Parag, Rahul Tewatia, Jofra Archer, Shreyas Gopal, Kartik Tyagi, Jaydev Unadkat
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Devdutt Padikkal, Aaron Finch, Virat Kohli(c), AB de Villiers(w), Washington Sundar, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Isuru Udana, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal